Failure

I spend my Sundays leading the children’s ministry at my church and occasionally I make it upstairs for the early “traditional” service to worship and hear God’s Word. It’s difficult for me to engage in worship with traditional hymns and liturgical prayers. I realize that true worship has more to do with me than with the music or the style, nevertheless, it’s still challenging to find my groove. As a response to that challenge, I worship at Timberline’s Wednesday night service while my children attend their Rangers and Missionettes programs. Last night at Timberline, Pastor Dick Foth referenced Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Your Greatest Fears and he had us write out, or reflect upon, our biggest dream and greatest fear, and then circle them with our prayers.

I was praying within seconds. It didn’t take me long to determine my biggest dream (true contentment) and my greatest fear (failure as a father, husband, and servant of Christ). As a divorced father of two, I often feel as if I’m already dwelling within my greatest fear. I’ve failed as a husband, I feel as if I’ve failed as a father by making the lives of my children more difficult in a divided household. Furthermore, when I read certain texts in Scripture, I feel like I’ve failed as a follower of Jesus. As I continue to circle my fears with prayer, I’m realizing that the two are connected. I can never reach my dream of contentment until I overcome my fear of failure. Once I completely circle my fears, I can move toward circling my dreams. I’ve also come to the realization that God hasn’t been perpetuating my fears. He’s confirmed—time and time again—through the affirmation of others, the emotional stability and resiliency of my children, the health of my relationship with their mother, my strength and compassion as a man and future husband, and the growth and maturity of my relationship with Jesus Christ—which has grown exponentially since my divorce. God has answered my prayers…it’s just sometimes it’s not the answer for which I’m looking; the contentment I desire seems to emanate from my failures. As David Checkett said, “Success builds character, failure reveals it” I’m not entirely pleased that God chose to answer my prayers to overcome my fear of failure by allowing me to fail and grow through it…but I recognize
it as such.

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been studying the patriarchs over the past month and one thing I’ve noticed is how often these men—who were chosen and blessed by God—failed epically. Abraham doubted God’s promise that Sarah would have a child, so he slept with his maidservant Hagar in order to manipulate the situation. Abraham and Isaac tried to pass their wives off as their sisters. Jacob lied to his father and stole his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob had two wives, who were sisters, and two concubines. Levi and Simeon avenged the rape of their sister Dinah and murdered the inhabitants of an entire city. Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Jacob showed favoritism to his wife Rachel and their sons Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob’s sons with Leah and his two concubines sold their brother Joseph into slavery. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar.

In Judah’s defense, he did mistakenly think Tamar was a prostitute.

By the time I reached Genesis 50, I didn’t feel so bad about my own failures. If God can provide true contentment for that group of misfits…he surely can provide it for me. I’m still not thrilled when God answers my prayers through my own imperfections and failures. However, I realized that I do tend to grow more through my failures than I do through my successes.  And like Gandhi, I consider them blessings and intend on laying them directly at the feet of God!

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