FAILURE

So, how is everybody doing with those New Year’s Resolutions? If you are rocking it with great strength and determination, more power to you! However, if you are anything like me, I’m already feeling a bit deflated. As my therapist might ask “What would you say to your best friend if they were feeling as you are today? Or if your child came to you feeling a bit discouraged and defeated?

I think we all realize all too well that we live in a culture that idolizes success, often holding up the “winners” in life and scorning the “losers.” In response. we have become skillful self-promoters dangerously adept at selling ourselves, even to the point of deceiving ourselves sometimes. We define ourselves by our accomplishments; our ability to deliver, our perfect performance. We have bought into the myth, sometimes unconsciously, that “success saves.”

Maria Boulding, in her book Gateway to Hope: An Exploration of Failure, extols the odd, counter-cultural truth that God does not love us despite of our faults and failures, but rather in and through them we are being emptied, being broke open and brought into deeper intimacy with God and one another. God works in and through our failure to bring about the kingdom! Our downfalls force us to shed our self-sufficiency – our masks of perfection – and accept redemption, knowing that we have not earned it by our accomplishments. Our weakness cultivates a deeper vulnerability, compassion, and acceptance towards others – the very hallmarks of a follower of Jesus. I

In the spiritual life, often our failures are more valuable than our successes. Consider Jesus. He was most successful at the very moment of his deepest failure and suffering; a paradox that we Christians know in our bones. In Jesus, we see that the very moment of catastrophe is also the moment of liberation. This is the very mystery of God that we are invited to live out. There is something very sacred to be found in our brokenness. Accomplishments, failures, successes, embarrassments – no matter; we are but instruments. So, today, maybe we can try not to label anything as “good” or “bad,” and we can be our own best friend and extend a bit of tenderness to ourselves in the face of our failures.

A closing story…

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on one end of the pole he carried across the back of his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishment and saw itself as succeeding for the purpose for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After three years of what it perceived as bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. For the past three years, I have been able to deliver only half my load because of this crack in my side. Because of my flaws you have had to work without getting the full value of your efforts.” The water bearer said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” 

As they went up the hill, the old, cracked pot noticed the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path. The pot felt cheered, but at the end of the trail, again apologized for its failure. The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the  path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I knew about your flaw and took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them for me. For three years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. If you were not just the way you are, he would not have such beauty to grace his house.

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