I saw someone from my past today. Someone who, when I look at them, I see my failure. Maybe it's different for others, but for me, failure has always been a four letter word. As I look back on my life I realize that for the longest time the majority of my decisions were motivated at least in part to reduce the chances of failure or, at least, the chances that others would see it. Eventually though, my humanity caught up with me, and there came a time in my life where not only did I fail, but I was brought very very low. My failure turned into a season in which all my attempts at overcoming my weakness and sinfulness resulted in continued brokenness. God did redeem this time and brought amazing growth, grace and intimacy with him as a result. However, the reverberations of this failure continue to sound in my heart and life. The process has been beautiful and painful. I am intrigued by it.
I was listening to a book on leadership recently, and the author was addressing the topic of failure. I listened intently, gravitated towards a truth that changed my attitude towards my own failures. It should be simple. Something I should have known years ago, but I did not. The truth was this: Failure is a prerequisite to leadership. If you wish to succeed and lead others you must first fail, not once, but over and over again. This author argues that if we are not failing, it means we are not doing anything worthwhile. Failure is the stepping stone to success and is to be expected for anyone who wants to do anything significant. He says that not only should we tolerate failure, but that failure should be embraced as a means of learning and growth.
I guess intellectually I would have said, "sure, of course failure is normal and leads to our growth," but that is not what my heart and life said. To have a positive attitude towards failure was a foreign concept to me. Rather, in the midst of failure, and for years after, I condemned myself and others for the brokenness. Even as I write this I can hear someone say, "You're just condoning sin to make yourself feel better!" No... I know sin is serious and that its effects are disastrous. I live it every day. But what a difference it has made in my heart to know that my goal is not the absence of failure, but to know that when failure comes, the goal is to fail well by embracing it and using it as an opportunity to learn. Failure does not mean I am despicable. It means I am human. It means I am loved. It means the Father is doing two things: He is covering me with the righteousness of Christ, and He is using my failure to bring about something AMAZING!
I am still waiting to see the fullness of the beauty God is bringing out of that aforementioned season of failure. The pain I experienced and caused still pains me, but now I know that God is bringing something beautiful out of it. Rather than running from it, I can embrace the failure and ask, "God, what can I learn from this and what can you do through it?" His grace does not just cover my shame. It gives me a righteousness, power and blessed future that extends into eternity. All of my failures will be caught up into that future as a beautiful part of his redemptive story, not a single hour misplaced or lost, but everything made whole.