Failing Forward

Stories of failure permeate our contexts, whether spoken or unspoken. Steve raises the question of how telling our stories of failure helps or contributes. This has been a subject of contemplation for me lately in reviewing both my own experiences and the stories of others.

It’s a curious part of the human condition, that we are so poor at redemption. Which is, in turn, why that is the business best left to God and worked out through us and in us. Failure stories thrust us into the middle of redemption at work. I find even in my short lifetime that it is very rare for something to fail and then finish.

Failure is so often followed by regret, suspense, debrief, analysis, discussion, avoidance, guilt, confrontation, conflict, new beginnings, wishes, could’ves, if onlys and reflection. Even when small failures are found in amongst success stories, the failure lingers longer.

It’s so important to bring these failure stories into the light, especially when are failures are not sin-related stories, but rather the stories where God-filled possibilities ended in a different place than where we expected.

I think of a friend who followed God’s prompting to the letter, in the face of so many friends and associates predicting failure. “Failure” came, and left things undone, but not without hope. Redemption came, and esteem, reputation and the team of people involved were all restored to optimism. My friend still places God at the centre of failing, and wouldn’t change a thing, despite the cost. For him, obedience to God led to failure. More than that, it was a failure that God was in the midst of. In telling our own stories of failure, we show people that God can be present right in the midst of failure. That’s precious ground in a Christian world filled with success stories.

My senior pastor once floored a room of seventeen year olds, by sharing his own deep sense of personal failure in regards to some mission time spent overseas. Failure makes us all a little more human, which in turn, is a little more divine.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ee cummings