Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Failure”

Our biggest fear is “failure.” It seems such an ugly word, and many use it to bring us down. Or we simply bring ourselves down. We begin to spiral into the abyss of failure with no way to get out.

I once was  asked, many years ago, if I could ever fail… I thought about the question carefully, realizing that there was a hint of entrapment there. Unless she wanted to know how I failed to be on time most of the time, or “failed” to do the dishes that morning, nothing really came to mind. Surely that is not what she meant. Maybe she was wondering if I have been a failure?? The best I could think of was to see this as a spiritual teaching moment, and what I understood the word to mean within the realms of my Christian life. I responded, “As long as I do what God asks of me, and I follow His commandments I will not fail.” Well, that answer didn’t sit well with the person asking. Apparently her definition for “fail” was different. To me, it was what would cause me to be a failure within my calling and as a Christian. Frankly, I refuse to allow the fear of being one (a failure), to keep me from doing what I believe to be God’s will…. or else I would fail.

We are raised to avoid failure at all costs. In fact, if you are not encouraged to “NOT FAIL,” it is because you are told that you already have. Sadly, I have heard this from many teens, and even some adults. The expectations of parents give the person a nerve wracking stress, crippling them, sometimes for life… if they do not meet them.

Yet, we see failure as our own personal evil, something to avoid and fear. After all… it is the one thing that can stop us from moving forward in our education, jobs, relationships and even in marriage. And if we fail, we may  bring down others with us.

I have come to the conclusion that “fail” is seen and defined differently by many. When asked “how do you define failure?” I get different answers. Everyone defines it differently, and most likely it’s based on their experiences.

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, {https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fail} “fail” is defined in multiple ways as well:WP_20161003_20_10_12_Pro

  1. to lose strength 
  2. to fade or die away 
  3. to stop functioning normally 
  4. to fall short 
  5. to be or become absent or inadequate 
  6. to be unsuccessful 
  7. to be unsuccessful in achieving a passing grade 
  8. to become bankrupt or insolvent        

Based on these all of us have not only failed but will always fail at one thing or another. We would, by definition, be failures and so why even bother. With so many “failures” in our resume…. how are we going to survive this life? How are we going to come out ahead?

Jesus gives us a way out. He gives us the ability to overcome those failures and pulls us out of the human sense of “failure,” as defined by ourselves and society.  He changes this to focus on His expectations.

For Christians, being forgiven by Christ and living the Christian life, cannot fail, unless we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We no longer need to “conform to this world,” but “be transformed.”(Romans 12:2). God sees failure differently. Simply put, as a Christian, what “failure” is changes from the human perspective into the spiritual perspective. It then gives us HOPE that our LIFE is worth living, that we are not “failures.” We are simply humans that make mistakes and grow, learn, and become better.

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.”                                                                                        —2 Corinthians 13:4-7  (NIV)

Yes, I am aware that my definition, though very biblical, may be controversial in a society where everyone must consider themselves to have failed, or, according to some Christians, or they are not sufficiently humble. Truly, do you actually need to fail to learn? Can’t we learn from observation, and avoiding mistakes others have made? Do you have to go through the emotional whirlpool of embarrassment, depression and more, in order to learn? I truly believe that the person that is constantly learning to do better should not need to feel a failure, or have to have failed, to learn. It seems so negative in all senses of the word, and leaves behind the faith and hope of Christianity. This is human failure… before Christ.

According to the Bible we fail when we: (I have included some Bible verses, but there are many more.)

  1. Do not follow God’s commandments (Lev. 26:14-16, Numbers 32: 22-24, Deut. 8:11)
  2. Do not have faith (Luke 22:31-32, Mark 8:17-19,
  3. Do not see our own spiritual shortcomings before helping others. (Luke 6:41-43)
  4. Do not do it for God (Acts 5:38-39, Mark 10:29-31, Romans 15:1-3)
  5. Do not pray (1 Samuel 12:22-24)

IMG_0178It seems to me that “failure” is not about success, marriage, passing courses, or our health. Failure, biblically, is a spiritual matter. In fact, it leads to sin. In other words, when we do not live a life according to God’s will, we have failed. Yet, when we fail to abide by that, God’s grace provides us an out. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23)–in other words we have “failed” because we fall short.  He reaches out and raises us up, giving us hope once again, forgiving and reestablishing us so that we are not “failures” but growing, getting better. The Bible, therefore, sees failure or “to fail” differently from the secular view. The concept changes when Christ becomes our Savior.

As Christians, we must be held accountable to our faith, to the biblical standards of failure.  Does this mean that we cannot fail in the secular sense of the word? Of course not, we make many human mistakes, but we are not failures according to God. We just simply make mistakes. However, as Christians, the question is, “is it beneficial to us to see human failures as a thermometer of our heart?” NO, we should see the spiritual ones as a way to measure our heart and relationship with God. This will make us not only stronger but it will constantly change us to do better, be hopeful, and seek God more. Otherwise desperation, depression and the loss of self-worth will overcome us.

As unique as each of us are, our mistakes are all different. But they do not make us failures, especially if we strive to see it from God’s point of view. As I have challenged myself to see it from a different perspective, to define “fail” as God does, so I also challenge you. You will notice that you will continue to grow more, better, and stronger if you focus on following God’s will and Word in your life. And next time someone wants to point out your failures simply say, “I have made mistakes, but God isn’t finished with me yet. I will not fail if I learn to do better.” Because after all, you are uniquely you 🙂

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Dreams”…

“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.”  –Jeremiah 29:11 (NIRV)

Over 20 plus years ago I stepped onto the grounds of Southern Nazarene University. Little did I know that during my years of study there my life would change, my experiences would shape me, events would break me and God would rebuild me.

I went in with the illusion and dream, as many high school grads have… that I knew what I wanted to be. I thought I knew what would become of me after my studies. I had my life planned out. I pretty much had my priorities all down. I had a car, and a job, and now I had a pathway to my future. I was in a great university, and so far, people liked me. Everything would be great. I would get a B.A.  in Religion with a Psychology Minor, maybe add on theater… I would find the most amazing, handsome and God-loving 6 foot tall “Superman” I could during that time. We would get married right after I graduate. W’d move to the mission field in some other country, have our children there, 4 of them, and live happily ever after.

Yeah…NOPE! That did not happen…

I did get my B.A. in Religion though, and did marry a shorter, but not so perfect version of “Superman.”  But that is all that went along with my plan. Within the grounds of the university I found passion in Mission Studies that replaced the minor in Psychology, and I even saw the opportunity to get a second minor in Spanish. I responded to those changes with glee… but then…

walking on old rails
Walking on old rails laid down in Thailand by the Japanese

I got derailed…

My life got derailed…

It wasn’t all for the bad… for God had other plans for me within the events of my life and maybe even as a response to the “tragic times” of them. Little did I know that God would create a pathway that would carry me in different directions.

Between my junior year and senior year I lost my Mother to cancer. I was more than heart broken. I was lost and walked through a tunnel for months. My studies had already suffered as she had been in the hospital during my sophomore year, and this was worse than that. I thought to myself, as my 4th year began, why should I continue them now? I can’t even focus! I had amazing professors and a fiancee who believed in me and helped me get through that year. I got married during the final year, right after Christmas. And we began a life completely off my plans. We entered the pastoral ministry in the USA. “Surely this is temporary…” I thought to myself…

Yeah… NOPE…. it wasn’t

So my plan, that I had envisioned, that I had laid out, didn’t go well. I was now more derailed than ever…

I was wrong. I was so wrong. God had taken aspects of me and re-molded me to do far more than I thought I could. He taught me to find a new “plan” regardless of the different pathways our life took us through. God worked within our derailment and placed us in different rails that would still work within His Plan. And the more control of our lives we gave God, the more interesting, exciting and new pathways He would provide. It became God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for us.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   —Romans 12:2 (NIV)

In the process of it all I wound up working in my mission field here in the USA. Not what I planned or dreamed of, but it was God’s plan and dream ultimately. He opened the doors when others closed some, and kept us moving us forward through life. Through experiences that where great, to the painful ones, God kept rebuilding, strengthening us and placing new rails towards new destinations that we never thought of.

We have ministered in the middle of nowhere, to small towns, small cities, large cities. inner-city areas, multi-cultural areas and more.  I have learned the differences within the American/White culture as much as I have learned the differences within the minority cultures. I have experience a life that was not even, remotely, close to my dreams.

As I look back at that excited, perfectly planned, determined and dreamy girl… I can only smile and see still all those characteristics even today.

New things still excite me, I still plan, this time knowing that it will change. I am still determined, and I still dream. The difference is that I rely on God more than ever to create my pathway, to set my rails down according to His will. Then I get on His path and pray that there is no derailing. And even if there is, God will place us back on track.

Life goes on… as God creates unique pathways in our lives that may not be what we expect but we ride with willingly.  For we have accepted that our lives may not be “happy ever after” but it will be unique and full of JOY, LOVE, GRACE and more. For we ride on the rail of Life that God has placed before us, regardless how odd, difficult or painful some of these stopping grounds will be. In exchange you never know how often an amazing and unique that journey will be as you ride on the rails of God’s will.

So, sit back an enjoy the ride. Let God lay your rails down for they will be unique just for you. Let go of your plans and let God be in control. You will be amazed at the unique journey you take when you are in His will.

We were also chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plan and purpose.  We were the first to put our hope in Christ. We were chosen to bring praise to his glory.” –Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIRV)