Failure to Fail

Exhausted after driving back from the Eastern Shore

Our failure to fail is actually our biggest failure." ~Michael Ignatieff, Success and Failure in Politics

Saturday I had the awesome privilege of ministering at a retreat for a church pastored by my brother in ministry down on the lower eastern shore of Maryland. The drive was LONG, but the people were well worth it. Along with this kind and loving church family, we took to the work of discussing what keeps us from moving into our truth. Putting to use some of the resources and discussions that so greatly impacted me down at Duke a couple of weeks ago, we talked through the things that keep us from moving into the things God has quietly spoken to us.

One of the things that became a familiar refrain was the fear of failure; more specifically what other people will say and think if (when) you fail. I realized that so many of us in the room (myself included) were being held hostage to the thoughts and opinions of other people, along with the rejection that comes from failing. It is amazing to me how we allow ourselves to become incarcerated by the threat of words spoken by people who sit on the sidelines because they lack the tenacity to pursue the assignment on their own lives.

I so wanted to say to them, "Just trust God and go for it. God won't let you fail." This however is not always true. We may try lots of things spoken to us by the Spirit and many of those things result in failure. Instead I shared what I came to accept while I was at Duke the week prior- failure is not always a bad thing. I am not referring to failure that comes from negligence or poor effort, but I am referring to the kind of failure that comes despite earnest effort and commitment. I am referring to experimental failure, the kind that comes from trying new things that may not yield your desired result, but brings about the growth God desires for you. This article written by one of my instructors talks about a Nobel Prize winner whose research methodology is think big, experiment, learn from failure, experiment again. In this video, Bishop Jakes says it like this- "STORM THE GATES". His point is that we need to be willing to try something... many things until something knocks down the gates of limitation and intimidation.

I wonder how much more adventurous, more confident, more empowered, more willing to walk in holy boldness we would be if we learned to think big, experiment often, and learn from failure in a ways that move us forward.