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  • Writer's pictureDeahna Tipton

Hello Failure My Old Friend

I'm writing this because I myself need it.

I’ve found that I have gotten really good at accepting and moving on from failures that don't hold much weight. I didn't get the laundry put away. Oh well. Another day went by and I didn't vacuum. Give yourself some grace, D. It's ok. Shoot I didn't call and make that appointment. Just move on and try again tomorrow. So functional, am I right?

Well.... In all honesty, that positive attitude I have with myself doesn't stand a chance when failure impacts things that really matter to me. When it comes to the most important things in my life - my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, and especially my kids - failure is crushing, lingering, and difficult for me to reconcile with.

They deserve more - I tell myself.

This is especially relevant to me lately because patience and I have not exactly been friendly. Two teething toddlers is no joke, and dealing with two teething toddlers on a lack of sleep while already feeling grumpy, as I have found out recently, is a weak point of mine. I lost my patience, and in that way I failed them.

It hasn't always been patience though. At different points in my life I have dealt with failures in charity, chastity, humility, fortitude, you name it. Failure is, in our imperfection, a fact of life for everyone.

So what do we do with it? I think I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for a long time. We are supposed to feel contrition for the things we do wrong, but it isn’t supposed to consume us or send us into a pit of shame and darkness. So where is that line? And if we know how not to handle it, how should we handle it instead?

Enter Saint Paul.

In my search for answers I landed on his letter to the Philippians. He says something that is really profound on its own, but is especially so in this context of dealing with our failures.

This is a man who had cruelly persecuted Christians. He surely at this point knew the seriousness and ugliness of what he had done before he came to know Christ. In fact, he even states that he knows that he still fails and is not perfect (3:12). Yet, he turns away from the failures of his past and presses on toward the promise of the future - and the unbounded hope in a life lived with Jesus Christ.

It really got me thinking. What if the apostles were crippled by their failure? Would Paul, the persecutor, have thought himself up-to-the-task in leading countless others toward Christ? Would Peter, the one who denied Christ in his most desperate hour, have had the courage to become the head of His Church? They had to move forward and they could do so held in the embrace of Jesus' abiding love for them.

They knew that where we in our weaknesses fail, His forgiveness and providence are never-failing.

It's a pattern that I'm noticing in the saints.

  1. They humble themselves in their failures.

  2. They do not walk but RUN toward the Lord's forgiveness and love.

  3. They find abounding hope in those arms.

  4. They allow that hope and love to transform them utterly and completely for His good.

So that pain that I feel deep down in my chest when I know that I failed and that it matters...I choose to look away from that shame and instead to look heavenward toward the goal. I choose to confess what needs confessing and to accept the love and relief that comes with absolution. I choose to trust in the promise that, through Christ, I can do anything - but that when I fail, He is waiting with open arms.

And for those that I failed, I choose to remember that they, too, live in His unfailing love and protection.

One last note worth mentioning. Saint Paul mentions (Philippians 3:6) that when he was persecuting Christians, he was living by the law of the zealous Pharisee. In the eyes of those around him, he was blameless.

Often times moral failure is deemed success by societal standards, and similarly, living a moral life focused on what is really important is seen as failure.

A good thing to keep in mind - that we can't look outward for affirmation in our life and our actions, only upward.

Lord, in my failures today and every day, remind me of the way You love. You wait like a patient Father with open arms, ready and willing to pick me up off of the floor each and every time I fall. Help me look to the saints for examples of those who have invited You so completely into even the deepest and darkest parts of their lives. Help those around me to understand my imperfection and, in all the ways that I fall short, to turn to You instead. For in you, there is only hope. You offer us joy even in the midst of our failings - we need only accept it.


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