A Failure’s Failure
Failure brings us closer to God. I hear phrases in our world, even in the church world, that sound way more like American exceptionalism, than like the joyous humility of Christ. “Slam-dunk,” “home-run,” and so on. I hear this subtle performance creeping into my own self-talk. “I just want to thrive,” I said to my wife recently. And yet, what is the story behind that? I have a dear friend back in Alabama who spent ten years slogging in a job spraying foam into shipping containers. I even worked in the shop he worked in, for a time, and can say without a doubt it was a soul-crushing job. It was terrible, just terrible. He worked there, hating it, and definitely not “winning” for ten years. When God let him leave it, he didn’t go on to starting his plucky own business making triple his salary. No, he went on to work for the National Guard, making a modest but acceptable income, doing something he liked to do.
It was a good change, but it wasn’t “success.” (I’m over-using quotations, I know.)
The point of that story isn’t that he suddenly started doing awesome and now he’s driving a Mercedes and making his way from success to success. No, he went from hell, to something less than hell.
And in the Americanism of our day, he failed. He failed to strike it rich. He failed to make it. He failed to be the success everyone on Instagram really is. He failed. And I love him for it. He failed to be the richest, thinnest, handsomest, always-on-vacationest guy I know. And I love that because his story is so real. And it makes me realize that I’m so much the same way.
I just am.
I left Montgomery, Alabama a year and a bit ago. Literally not one thing has gone the way I thought it would. Even the things that were supposed to go really amazingly? Those things? Those dreams come true? They swiftly turned into nightmares. Bitterness, like the Junk Lady from Labyrinth, began throwing burdens on my soul.
And my most recent failure, my most recent failure was colossal. It was monumental and unforgettable. It was like having a piece of my soul removed, without any sort of anesthetic. And yet? God is good. He has let me fail. He has positioned me to do so, in fact. And yet, somehow, He isn’t “failing me.” (More quotes!) So what do I mean?
God hasn’t looked at me, pulled out his red ink well and stamped a big, sans-serif F on my paper. No, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I feel approved of. I feel loved. I feel as though He has led me to fail where others might have succeeded, in love, not in retribution or punishment. He loves me. Oh how He loves me.
So this piece isn’t about how awesome things are. They aren’t, really, that awesome right now. But I got to fail. I got to watch my plans crumble into a burning heap. And still turn back to Jesus and see Him smile at me.