Failure Isn’t Final

Years ago I heard Landon Saunders say:

It’s not inhuman to fail.
It’s inhuman to deny that you fail.
That’s failing at failure.

His words are helpful because they remind me that I always have a choice as to how I will respond to my mistakes.  Will I allow them to bring a final, fatal end to my spiritual growth.  Or, will I trust that God can forgive and accomplish his purpose in my life in spite of my failure.

Failures aren’t failures
if you learn something from them.

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh –

Good people are good
because they’ve come to wisdom through failure.

– William Saroyan –

Failure is only the opportunity to begin again,
more intelligently.

– Henry Ford –

I’ve failed over and over again …
that is why I succeeded.

– Michael Jordan –

God has entrusted great tasks
to those who have handled great failure.

– Landon Saunders –

It is true that we are all created in the image of God.  But it is also true that we fall short of that image — we fail, we sin.  But failure is not final because …

FAILURE EDUCATES

It points out our “blind spots” and redirects our energies.  It answers questions, offers new options, and prevents further failure. Ask any sports figure, scientist, or teacher. The education that failure brings offers the opportunity to begin again.

FAILURE HUMBLES

Confessing failure cultivates humility in us and reminds us to be tolerant and forgiving of the failures of others.  Alexander Pope wrote, “Some people will never learn anything … because they understand everything too soon.”  Humility will always be helpful, especially in the lives of the arrogant. But sometimes it takes failure to bring humility in a life.

FAILURE MOTIVATES

Falling short of expectations does not have to be a reason to quit.  It could provide the challenge and motivation to go on.  After all, the original goal still stands.  It is still worth pursuing.  The only difference is that now your focus is sharper and the way is clearer.

FAILURE HAS AN ANSWER

Failure’s most important lesson is our great need for forgiveness.  God created us clean and he can make us clean again.  He has not given up on us and it is an insult to the image of God that we wear to give up on ourselves.

So, let us learn from our mistakes and, with a greater sense of humility and clarity, let us accept God’s forgiveness and move forward in the power of his grace.

God made Him who had no sin
to be sin for us,

so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God

– 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

cul-de-sac living

I really like the thoughtful writing of Ken Gire. Here is a piece from his, Windows of the Soul.  It gave me a good start to my day.

It is, I suppose, possible to speak of the soul without speaking of God, just as it is possible to tour a cathedral without stopping to worship. Most of us, though, have taken that tour. And for most of us, it’s not enough.

The pursuit of self is what most of us have been doing for much of our lives, even our spiritual lives. But the self is a cul-de-sac, and eventually we end up where we started. Footsore and just as frustrated, just as unfulfilled. Feeling we’re a failure, or worse, a fraud.

The pursuit of soul, if soul is all we’re pursuing, is not much different. It’s a longer walk down a nicer street, but the street is still a cul-de-sac, and in the end, regardless how invigorating the walk, it doesn’t lead beyond the neighborhood of who we are.

… We long for something more than a routine walk around the religious block. We long for the companionship of God. We long for the assurance that we are not taking this journey alone. That He is walking with us and talking with us and intimately involved in our lives.

This new year, as you begin again, don’t just take the tour.  Stop and worship.

Faith Is Not An Evacuation Plan

Many of us grew up with a heavy dose of heaven hymnology.

Sing To Me Of Heaven
When We All Get To Heaven
In The Sweet By And By
Beyond The Sunset
Face To Face With Christ My Savor
There’s A Land That Is Fairer Than Day
To Canaan’s Land I’m On My Way
There Is A Habitation

Great songs, and for some, heaven is thought of as the natural conclusion and climax to a life filled with a growing faith, lived for God here on planet earth.  But sadly for others, this longing for a future home in heaven is not really connected to life here in the present world.  Habits remain the same.  Plans for each day are not altered by a developing faith.  Speech, relationships, behavior do not surrender to the spiritual leadership of Jesus.  In fact, once the “salvation” ticket is punched, life continued on just as it has been, with little or no growth or change.

A friend of mine once asked the question, “What’s the difference between a man with ten years of experience and a man with one year of experience, ten times?” The answer?  The man with tens year of experience actually grew each year.  There was a slow but steady change in his life as one year built upon the progress of the previous year.  But the man with one year of experience, ten times, just repeated his first year over and over.  There was no real change.  He was in a rut.  He probably hated it, but as we sometimes say, “He had become adjusted to his rut.”  It was familiar, even comfortable in a twisted sort of way. I think that popular writer Brian McLaren had the first man in mind when he said,

The Gospel is not an evacuation plan
but a transformation plan

Other, much older writers follow the same line of thought.

Heaven is not to be looked upon
only as the reward,
but as the natural effect
of a religious life.

— Joseph Addison

The main object of religion
is not to get a man into Heaven;
but to get Heaven into him.

— Thomas Hardy

Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind.

— Romans 12:2

Will heaven be a ticket that I purchase and then put away until the day that I have to pull it out at the end of my life?  Or, will heaven be the next logical, seamless step in a life that has been constantly growing and changing since the first day that God’s grace entered?  Is your faith an evacuation plan or a transformation plan?

Learning To Wait

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
— Psalm 130:5-6 —

We don’t like to wait.  Waiting has a bad reputation.  Whether it’s waiting in line, waiting for food, sitting in a “waiting room” or waiting for the copy machine to warm up so the “please wait” message will go off.  Whatever the cause we don’t like to wait.  And so, we often choose the alternative to waiting …

“What have you been doing lately?”
“Trying to keep busy.”

Busyness.

Is it really a good guideline for our time, or measurement of our worth?  The fact is, busyness smothers stillness.  And stillness … waiting … resting in God’s presence … is praised in scripture.

But what is waiting?  Is it leaning back in your rocking chair wondering if anything is going to happen?  Do you accidentally fall into waiting when you run out of other things to do?

No, according to scripture, you choose to wait.  You consciously give God a yielded moment.  In this psalm there is neither a skeptical hope that wonders if the dawn will ever come, nor a domineering spirit that tries to drag the sun over the horizon.  No, this waiting is filled with confidence and patience.

And then, once the sun up and the world is illuminated, all you have to do is look around at God’s creation.  Waiting is everywhere.  Creation knows how to wait.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain — first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

— Mark 4:26-29

You see, plants don’t mind waiting.  They wait for the sun.  They wait for the rain.  And the point of Jesus’ story is that God grows in our lives when, like the plants, we learn to wait. He grows powerfully through small beginnings and gradual growth.  He grows constantly through patient waiting and confident trusting.  He grows in our lives when we are willing to wait.  Are you willing to wait?

Take a few moments today and give God that yielded moment.  Find a place to be quiet and still.  Tell the world you’ll be out a bit later, but that right now, you’re learning to wait.