Saturday, January 3, 2015

Failure And Options

The Despair of Worldly Wisdom

It's a popular motivational phrase. Failure is not an option. We grow up hearing it on the baseball field and at school. Coaches, teachers and parents "encourage" kids to scratch failure off their list. Success is the name of the game. We are trained well and soon develop an aversion to anything less than success. We are uncomfortable with less than perfection, or at least, the standard set by the world.

By the time high school rolls around it's reached a feverish pitch. College decisions loom. After college the decisions get weightier. Graduate work, a job in your field of study, good pay, relocation packages and advancement opportunities. Don't let them see you sweat though. It doesn't look good and it clearly indicates a wobbly success trajectory. Fearful? Down a notch. Anxious? Two notches. Questioning? Off the rails. Your response? Naturally, get back on track. Stiff upper lip. Remember - failure is not an option!

You can't help but recount all those moments along the way where this scenario has played itself out. I remember vividly the day I received a big promotion. More money. More responsibility. More staff. I actually felt sick to my stomach. Sure I was excited, but nervous at the same time. However, I never let on. How could I? So, I set out to succeed.

For some, the knowledge of failure has been simmering just below the surface for a while. Tragedy, suffering and despair came at an early age. Loss of a parent, sexual, physical or mental abuse, poverty or drugs and alcohol were part of their story and the failure was front and center.

For these folks the need to cover up was even more intense. Pretense became a way of life. A way to survive. Buried under shame and regret they would do anything to perpetuate the image of success.

Interestingly, this actually works...temporarily. You can pull yourself together and put your best foot forward. You can rally because the show must go on. However, at some point the curtain drops. The lights fade. Then what? Now what are your options? If we are conditioned to believe that failure is not an option, where can we turn when the gig is up? When the beans spill? When the crash and burn comes?

If failure is not an option and you've failed, what's next?

The Relief of the Gospel

The truth is, failure is your only option.

The world says you can't fail, it's not an option, but the Bible confesses we all fail, it's our only option.

The Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes, The Sermon on the Mount - all the commands and demands in the Bible should make us fall on our knees.

When we look at the perfection of God, when we consider his standard, we all with a gasping breath should chime in with the tax collector who "while standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’"

It is not a resignation to a life of dreary last places, it is a recognition of the Life that came in first, for you and for me. Christ came. He became last that you would be first.

It is of great relief to know that striving can cease. That pretense can end. That truth can come out. It is a great burden lifted when you realize it is OK to be honest about who you are, and, it is a great peace that comes when you by faith receive the rest God promised. Jesus didn't come to give you a boost so you can be on your failure is not an option way. Jesus came to raise your body from the death it's been bound by so you can be on your way to freedom. It is his perfection you live in which gives you the ability to let go. Admit you're a hot mess and move on, all the while pointing to Him as the reason you are free from needing to pretend you have it all together.

If you are struggling to believe this good news, or, if you cannot imagine how a perfect God could love a failure, adulterer, rebel like you - take a moment to read about Paul. He writes in the first chapter of 1 Timothy:

Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Tim 1:13-16

Failure gives us an opportunity to point to Jesus, the One who on our behalf never fails, who always gets it right.

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