The Spirituality of Failure

It’s a bit ironic to be talking about failure on Easter Sunday, especially since we celebrate the ultimate display of power and victory found in Christ’s resurrection. However, I’d argue that that the resurrection becomes all the more compelling in our own lives when we reflect upon our own failures relative to the triumph of the cross and empty tomb.

It’s like being a fan of the perennially losing LA Clippers (or NY Jets), only to have them win the Ultimate, Eternal, and Final NBA Title (or Super Bowl). I know, it’s a crude analogy, but trust me, this feeling of elation is that much sweeter when we’ve been losers most of the time.

I once read that after the age of 21, spiritual lessons are only learned through failure and suffering, NOT success. This is not to say that success is evil – this is just to say that success has very little to teach us when we’ve grown older, other than the temptations to think that we’re better than we actually are.

As one who loves success and is quite driven to succeed, this maxim is a problem for me. I love success too much to allow failure to happen, and when it does, I usually don’t think about spiritual lessons outside of “better not make a mistake again”.

As a pastor, it’s especially difficult for me to come to terms with failure because I convince myself of the stakes involved:
– the souls of people
– the families and marriages of people
– the welfare of a community

So in some insidious way, it’s often difficult for me as a pastor to accept failure that is inherent with being human, even though the very thing I want people to believe is that God loves them despite their failures!

Now that I’ve left the “official” role of a pastor and I can no longer lean on measurable ministry “success” to validate me as a person, I’ve begun to discover just how deeply I’m loved despite how I’m “succeeding”… or not “succeeding”. Quantifiable numbers like “attendance”, “baptisms”, etc, used to drive me, and although there’s nothing wrong with succeeding in these areas (in fact, I’d argue it’s good to have growing numbers in these areas!), I’m having to access the depth of spiritual truth found in a gospel that triumphs in love despite my non-success (or failures, even).

Moreover, I’m beginning to learn that “non-success” and failures actually teach one of the most necessary profound spiritual insights – that humility is at the heart of spiritual maturity.

There’s been a growing awareness these past few days that God wants to humble me in this season of my life – for me to see my dependence more acutely, and to trust God’s provision and abounding grace more ruthlessly.

With that, I’ve been praying the Jesus Prayer quite frequently in recent days, hoping to internalize the foundation of my spiritual lifeline with God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The above is my prayer for the summer.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!- Romans 5:8, 10

The above is God’s answer to my prayer. 

Easter Sunday – Resurrection Sunday to be exact – is glorious, indeed.

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5 responses to “The Spirituality of Failure

  1. Love you bro!

  2. Here’s one of my favorite Merton quotes for you:

    “Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success”

    Blessings on your journey, Drew.

  3. Pingback: New Beginnings. | while waiting

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