When was the last time you failed at something? When was the last time you failed at something BIG?
Another question: How has failure shaped you? What has been its lasting impact?
I just finished a great book entitled “Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure” by JR Briggs. It’s written for pastors and ministry leaders, but is appropriate for anyone who has experienced significant failure in their lives.
It’s been said that failure is our culture’s unforgiveable sin, but Brigg’s takes issue with that. He describes failure as “a beautiful gift wrapped in an ugly package.”
The “ugly package” part is easily understood. Failure is painful, it hurts. Several years ago, I had failed to minister to a couple in my church whose son was gay and had recently “come out” as such. When I finally had lunch with the dad, he looked me in the eye and said: “You are the worst pastor we’ve ever had.”
Wow, that hurt . . . and his anger was understandable; I had failed their family.
And yet, Briggs calls failure “a beautiful gift.” How so? Let me quote from his book:
“Failure has a way of initiating a process of change similar to what lobsters experience throughout their lifetime.
In order to grow, lobsters rid themselves of their hard, protective shells in order to grow new shells. This process is called molting. Lobsters will experience molting about twenty-five times in the first five years of their life and once a year thereafter. It is a messy, exhausting and painfully slow process. Under pressure, the shell cracks. The lobster will lie on its side, flex its muscles in its entire body and abandon the old shell – leaving itself vulnerable. Though exposed and susceptible to attack among the ocean’s predators, a lobster is incapable of growth without the process of molting.
[Likewise], failure provides the Christian with rich opportunities for growth and maturity through spiritual molting. When we are molting [dealing with failure], we seem to be keenly aware of our risk and exposure to the harsh elements. But without molting, we will remain the size of our current shell forever. Without it, our growth is stunted.”
What Briggs is saying is that failure is necessary for our growth. It is a far better “teacher” than success. This has certainly been my experience.
I love this short quote from Gene Edwards:
What does the world need:
gifted men and women outwardly empowered?
Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed?
Keep in mind that in God’s Kingdom, weakness is power, loss is gain, and dying is actually the beginning of real living.