No one is immune to failure. I don’t know the official stats, but they’re right up there with death and taxes. At some point in our lives, we’re all going to fail, and some of us are going to do so with a catastrophic result.
The marriage might end. The savings might be gone. You might lose your job. You may even land in jail.
If this sounds shockingly negative, I apologize. I’m a recovering realist (which is really just a better PR term for a pessimist.) The thing is, as I grow older, and hopefully, a little bit wiser, I’m realizing how ill-equipped my generation is for failure.
Aren’t we the generation who was told to go off to college, get a degree, and there would be a job waiting for us? We’d have the house with the fence, the 2.5 kids, the trophy wife, and the Benz in the driveway. We’d have a retirement account bursting at the seams, and we’d quit work at 55 and play golf in Florida until we were too old to swing a club.
This is the lie we’ve been sold, and when life doesn’t work out the way we were told it would, we have no idea what to do.
So yes, you will fail. You will lose deals. You’ll go after the promotion and get passed up. You’ll get fired from the dream job 30 days after your baby is born. Life happens, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
But can I tell you something? There is beauty in failure. And you’re in good company.
Though he’s most well-known for building an ark and continuing humanity after the flood, we don’t often read the part of the story where Noah gets naked, then pass-out drunk, then curses his kids for finding him and covering him up.
We like the part of the bible where Moses overcomes his incredible insecurities to free the Israelites from the tyrannical grip of Pharaoh, liberating close to a million Jews. We don’t always read about the part where Moses kills an Egyptian and buries him in the desert.
David wrote some of the most incredible poetry ever put to paper, and he’s even called a “man after God’s own heart.” Pretty high honors for a man who saw a woman bathing on a roof, used his royalty to get her to sleep with him, then had her husband murdered by an opposing army.
Paul wrote half of the New Testament, founded more churches than we can count, and is regarded as one of the most Godly people in the scriptures. But as you may know, he spent the earlier part of his life hunting down and murdering followers of “The Way.” He literally hunted Christians for sport.
Scripture is crammed with story after story not of people who were perfect, and had it all together. Quite the opposite. The dominant narrative of the Christian tradition is people who are complete wrecks. People who have some serious issues. Financial, sexual, violent, demonic issues. They’re the last people you’d pick to help usher in the Kingdom of God.
But that’s the cool thing about the God that I know and serve. He is in the business of redeeming failure. He makes a practice out of picking up losers like Moses, Noah, Paul, David, and me, dusting us off, and going on to use us to do untold wonders for his Kingdom.
This is not to say that everything awful that happens to you is God’s plan. Far from it. What I’m saying is that I firmly believe that God will use it all, good and bad. He may not have caused it, but He can redeem it. He may not be the reason for your misery, but he can be the reason for your redemption.
No matter where you are in life, my prayer for you is simple:
“Rabbi, would you help us all to be keenly aware of the beauty of our failure.”