It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20 (MSG)
No Longer – The Failure Series – Part 2
Failure sinks to a deep, inner level and infects a type of paralysis for some. I know what this feels like first hand.
Is failure a feeling or an event? Is it the whole story, or just a part of it?
When it’s not me who's failed, and I’m talking to a friend right in the thick of it, it's easy for me to say that the failure is something that has happened, it's not THEM. The failure was a moment, an event, something missed, a goal not achieved.
But for most of us, when we experience failure for ourselves, we feel like one, too. Feelings inform our stories, and the stories we tell ourselves inform our feelings. For a while there, all I could see in my immediate past, was failure. I had put my whole life into being a Pastor, and I had failed miserably at it. Crashed and burned. Literally. I found myself in my early thirties starting over with no other experience, degrees, or titles to put on my resume. There was no differentiation for me, I wasn’t just “experiencing” failure, I felt I was one.
The narrative I kept telling myself was one of failure. And in this black hole of feelings and failings, I got stagnant and sick, and sad.
I had to reinvent the meaning of failure for myself.
I had to learn to understand it's function.
I desperately needed a healthy glimpse of what God thinks about us when we fail, and what he thinks about our failures themselves.
But the very first thing I needed to do was stop believing that the best way to recover from feeling like a failure was to succeed at something. Success is largely just an event, too. One that we can hinge our feelings to. And if we hinge our feelings to events, they will inform our stories, and the narrative of our lives will be, “unless I feel like a success, I will feel like a failure…” And there’s just too much “life” in between these two events to connect our self-worth to them.
I think that’s a little of what Paul meant when he said, “It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” (Gal 2:19-20 MSG.)
There’s another narrative we can listen to, and it doesn’t hinge on our feelings, our successes, our failures, our achievements, or our abilities.
The Divine in us. That’s who we are. That's the truer story.
This doesn’t free me from the experiences of failure and success, neither does it enable me to be flip with my mistakes and those of others. But it does give me a way to live with them and through them. And to make peace with it.
JM Barrie (who wrote Peter Pan) said: “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”