April 06, 2010

I’m a failure


hy do I continue trying to control my life when I’ve done such a poor job of it up to this point? It’s a question I have asked myself many times. In fact, I have mentioned that thought to others and found many of them to be in agreement. We seem to run around day after day trying to grab at the fraying fabric of our lives in an attempt to stop the threads from further unraveling and we end up in a huge knotted ball of failure and frustration.

Within the last 24 hours I have been given an expanded perspective on this concept. I still see it the same way—I try and try to control my life, even though I have a terrible track record, rather than giving it all over to God who has a perfect record and is always in full control. That conceptual framework has not changed.

But last evening I picked up one of my books on writing and read this:

...This title jumped out at me from the cover of a thin, unpretentious little volume: How to Peel a Sour Grape: An Impractical Guide to Successful Failure, by Richard P. Frisbie. Nice twist on the old sour grapes cliché, and an arresting oxymoron with “successful failure.” A gimmick, or did this Frisbie fellow really have something to say? I opened to chapter one, “Failure knocks, and knocks, and knocks,” and read:

Every man past a certain age, perhaps thirty-five, knows in his heart that he is a failure. He doesn’t realize that almost everyone else is a failure, too.

Hardly standard self-help fare, which usually features a style perhaps best characterized as cheerleader-on-uppers. Intrigued, but not yet intrigued enough to plunk my money down, I turned to the last page, where I found this observation:

So there it is—you’ve failed in the world, failed at home, failed as a personality. You’re a failure to the marrow of your bone. The ultimate test, then, is whether failure makes you bitter. The truth is that failure is a joke, not for the derision of demons, but the gentle laughter of the saints.

Leads & Conclusions, Marshall J. Cook,
Writer’s Digest Books, pp. 6–7.

The funny thing is the book I read that in is a book on writing—not on attitude adjustment.

Then this morning I was again reminded of this topic through a thoroughly outstanding blog post Head Heart Hand - Failure: the last taboo? One of the opening paragraphs of this blog post said:

But one great taboo remains in America. Failure. Until the recession. In 12 months, more than 4 million workers lost their jobs. On a single day in January 2009, 70,000 people were laid off, and another 50,000 or 60,000 lost their jobs on each of the 10 days that followed. Most of these people were hard-working, reliable, and conscientious - usually guarantees of success in America. And yet most of these 4 million had to endure a deep sense of personal failure, which affected not just their bank balance, but their marriages, their health, and often their relationship with God. Failure is no longer taboo in suburban America.

The author then went on to describe a few folks who have been known for incredible success publicly, but who have also experienced intense failure at times. He mentioned Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Schultz, Apple founder Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, basketball great Michael Jordan and others who have experienced failure along with their public successes.

But the next part of his blog post grabbed my attention—along with my heart:

Learning to “fail well” is a vital part of Christian ministry. A pastor said to me recently, “The first ten years of ministry is all about being broken and stripped!” I must have had a crash course, because it took me only five years to be broken, stripped, and branded a failure! These were dark, dark days. Yet, I know that my 10 months in the school of failure gave me my most valuable degree—a Master’s in how to fail well. Sadly, I keep forgetting what I learned and have to keep going back to that unpopular school for refresher courses.

Read the full blog post. I hope it will encourage you as it did me. And perhaps we can get on with life knowing that God’s success will always overrule our failure as long as we are covered by the blood of Christ.


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