Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sabbath Quiet: Waiting

 Waiting is not wasting. In the patient darkness, poised but prevented, dearest dreams are by courage kept alive.

And given but a vision of what the soul strains to touch, the line between hope and despair is held only by what hope is in–

The Trusted One who also waits, not prevented, but particular, curiously certain.

Whereas I, trembling on shifting sands of doubt, can only, when no light is seen, steady myself in His rock-sure grip, and make my stand on His never-wasted vows.

~Janet Hanson

Picture of Fountain Abbey by Laura Windes


The Failure that Matters

 The glory of God is a human being fully alive. ~St. Irenaeus

Dead Tree

I’m still chewing on the same topic: Fear of Failure. Why? Because fear is a potent enemy of the joy we were made for. Because when held up to the light, fears are revealed for what they are.

The failure we fear comes in several sizes. There’s

  • The Choke–you blow it when it matters most.
  • The Shun–you lose the approval you crave.
  • The Crash–your life ends up in shambles.

That we would avoid failure of any size is hardly surprising, but not inevitable. In a parable of Jesus we glimpse God’s perspective: Matthew 25:14-30.

A Parable

Before his departure, a wealthy traveller calls three servants into the room, and entrusts them with his investments. To one he gives five bags of gold, to another, two bags, and only one bag to the last man to arrive.

Clutching his more modest share, the last guy watches the others go to work. Trading wisely, shrewdly eyeing the rise and fall of the market–in no time they double their master’s money. The third man hesitates. The potential for such wild success is dimmed by the volatility of the stocks, conflicting financial predictions, the sight of panicked traders pacing the floor. The risk of failure seems high.

He digs a hole and buries the money, choosing the disappointment of his master over a future he cannot predict, and blames the master for his choice. The response is shockingly harsh, “As for this worthless servant, throw him into the outer darkness…”

A Wake up Call

A year ago a wise friend applied this story to me. What I thought was prudent humility, a sane avoidance of conflict and criticism, she named as a cowardly denial of gifts that are not mine to begin with.

I no longer look at my fears in the same way.

What has God entrusted to you? Have you “buried” anything out of fear of failing?


A First Time for Everything

You always pass failure on your way to success. ~Mickey Rooney

Life is filled with firsts. First days, first attempts, first drafts. And wherever firsts are found, failure lurks nearby.

Most of us don’t like the beginnings of things because competence makes us feel secure. We crave accomplishment, or at least the appearance of having arrived. But few of us get there with the first attempt.

My first poem, all fluffy, floating clouds and baby bluebirds childishly scrawled, embarrasses me now. No promising talent peers from its stilted lines. But other poems did follow.

My first inspirational talk claimed to cover the topic of Faith, in three obvious points and an amusing story. My research was limited to a dictionary definition; faith was at that point in my young life a vague, untried concept. The audience patiently applauded; they knew it could only get better.

My first weekend as a retreat speaker, I arrived with a Bible, five tentative outlines and I cried in my room after delivering each one. Who was I to be given such a weighty task? Which, no doubt, was God’s point of view as well, but he gave me the task anyway.

My first blog post is this one. I’m told I will have to write at least a hundred before my thoughts are worth reading. Someday I will look back with chagrin on this first one, but also with gratitude. There is always something good waiting on the other side of failure.

Only ninety-nine to go.

How about you? Is God nudging you to try something new? Do you have a “first” to share?


Avoiding Failure

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill

girl doing homework

Many of us avoid firsts. We avoid the challenge associated with change, we cling to the familiar. Psychologists use the term homeostasis to describe the state of emotional equilibrium we prefer. We refuse to budge even from destructive circumstances to avoid the insecurity of the unknown.

We fear potential humiliation, the possibility of exposure, more than our present pain.

Why? Because we remember what it felt like to fail.

First Day Fail

My first day of third grade, new school, new town, new state. I was the last to finish my assigned essay, “What I did during my summer vacation.” I was slower than the rest because, as Kenny, the boy seated next to me, loudly informed the teacher, I was not writing in cursive! I stared at my paper in misery–in the clash of curriculums I hadn’t yet learned how to not print.

Trust me, I went home and taught myself; public shame is a powerful motivator.

An eight year old can’t avoid those tough moments. The decision to move to a strange, new community a continent away was not mine to make. But as an adult I have moved, have stepped into new settings, and it is always the same. In a new place, attempting a new task, you cannot know what you don’t know. And the Kenny’s of the world will always be there.

But failure is not the end, it is a sign post to the better end God has in mind. I learned two important lessons that first day of third grade:

  1. I can teach myself.
  2. I can survive criticism.

I’d call that a successful first day. 

What have you learned from failure?  


 Image credit jenswessling at flickr