Failure is not something I do. Or rather it’s not something I do well or gracefully. I think I have taken the Scripture passage “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) a little too literally. Or perhaps the perfectionist in me uses this quotation as justification for replaying the old tapes in my head that tell me I’m not good enough, smart enough, worthy enough…you can fill in the rest. Of course this attempting to be perfect bit and weight loss. This attempting to be perfect bit and ministry. This attempting to be perfect bit and life don’t seem to work out so well. Just today at my WW meeting, my leader talked about how she worries about folks who never gain a little during their weight loss. How are they really living? How will they maintain? She asks. Intellectually I get this. And thankfully this go-round I’ve had a couple ups and downs with my weekly weigh-ins and seem to be able to both be honest with myself and continue to make mostly healthy choices. (There was a time when I would simply not write to avoid the truth. I think I convinced myself that unless pen hit paper the calories wouldn’t count. This is sort of like assuming that unless I confess it to God, God won’t know) Anyway, what I perceive as failure is not something I seem to readily accept or gracefully manage.
In addition to complicating the weight loss journey, this trait also challenges my ministry. On any given day it can produce frenzied thinking, speaking, acting or the complete opposite–paralysis. I can get so caught up in the how can I do this perfectly that I simply don’t do. I write and erase. I create and destroy. My email inbox is filled with drafts never finished. My box of greeting cards is jammed with greeting cards written but not addressed or sent. My journal is filled with ideas that I struggle to translate into projects, plans, or paper. Or at least paper that anyone else will see. Honestly, it took me two years to start a blog. And when I did, I couldn’t do it under the ministry I practice. Not because people wouldn’t read. Not because it doesn’t speak to my community. (Actually my community of youth and young adults is primed for a blog) NO, I haven’t done that because I wanted to practice blogging before I put something out there. I wasn’t sure how to write this way. What was blogging technique? Could I get comfortable with run-ons? Fragments? What about the tech piece? I don’t know how to size a photo or add a link or put in a sound/video file? So, there you have it. What you’re reading is my attempt to “Get Out There and Fail.” (I heard this at a workshop a couple weeks ago, and I liked it.)
More important is the ding-dang Scripture passage. Do you know that perfect in Greek actually translates more accurately as the word whole. Well, why don’t they say that? And why do translations from the King James to New Revised Standard to the New Living Translation all use the word perfect? Now, I don’t mean I wouldn’t still struggle with the perfectionism thing (I mean, I am me after all.) But what I’m saying is that if I read the passage as becoming whole like my father in heaven, well that’s different. Failure is part of being whole. At least when I look back at some of my “biggest failures” those have usually been where I’ve grown the most. Sounds trite a I know. Cliche maybe. But there’s a reason it’s cliche…it’s TRUE! And well, if that’s part of how I grow more authentic, more real, more of who God created me to be, more–dare I say–holy. Now this gives me something powerful to help replace my old tapes. This is Good News…life giving, paralysis breaking, perspective challenging.
Quotations for the Week:
Be whole, therefore, as your heavenly Father is whole. (Matthew 5:48)
It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second. (John Steinbeck)
Supposing you have tried and failed again and again. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down. (Mary Pickford)
Try again. Fail again. Fail better. (Samuel Beck)