What are you afraid of most, Mommy?
We were driving to school and my four year-old’s question bounced up out of the back seat, catching me completely off guard. I honestly had to think about it before giving him an answer.
Creepy-crawly things give me the heebie-jeebies, so I’m not partial to spiders. (I will scream and grab the can of Raid if I see one.) I don’t like heights and I’d probably rather not have to jump from a plane with nothing but a man-made parachute to stand between me and eternity. I don’t like being lost in a city I don’t know. Tornado sirens are terrifying. Those are all top-of-the-list fears for me. But they don’t claim the #1 spot. Not even close. My main fear — if I should let something drop and the outcome hurt or disappointed someone I loved — that main fear always goes back to FAILURE.
So I said it.
“Failure, Buddy. That’s Mommy’s main fear.”
He thought about it for a moment. (At least I thought he did, because everything was quiet in that back seat for the next thirty seconds or so.) And then, with his boyish charm he said:
I’m afraid of ninja-monsters attacking us.”
The thought does hold merit — much more so than failing to send an email by deadline or completing a project just a shade beneath the line of perfection. But it’s a very real fear for some of us. We’ve felt the sting of failure through rejection and loss along the way. To protect ourselves from yesterday’s pain, we draw into ourselves and strive, strive, strive to avoid it at all cost in our tomorrows.
It’s a common theme I heard over and over again in corporate America: You’ve got to fail fast.
Failure is something we should expect — especially as we’re trying something new. It’s how we learn. How we’ll grow. A checks-and-balance system to see how things are going to work. And if we fail fast, we get through the necessary growing pains up front and learn from those mistakes to build for the success that follows.
Sounds nice. But frankly, I’d rather face the ninja-monsters.
That is, I’d have said that up until this morning. Until I found something amazing in Paul’s early ministry. (We’re talking really early… like, on the road to Damascus early.) FAILURE is CRITICAL in the life of a Believer — and here’s why:
In Acts Chapter 9, we see a pattern of different types of strength displayed in Paul’s life. We see:
- Fortitude through testing/failure (Acts 9:4 – 9:18) — His sight is lost on the road to Damascus; he’s weakened and humbled
- Physical strength (Acts 9:19) — He’s strengthened by physical nourishment/food
- Spiritual strength (Acts 9:22) — He’s strengthened by the Spirit; able to plow through opposition, gained momentum in ministry
- Steadfast through rejection (Acts 9:26) — He’s strengthened by fellow believers, Barnabus and the apostles in Jerusalem
- Courage through trials (Acts 9:28) — He’s strengthened by fellowship with the apostles; gained experience, boldly preaching to Greek Jews
In Paul’s early life/ministry as Saul, which strength would you argue had the greatest, most lasting impact on his life?
Right. His conversion.
Paul’s conversion set the course for everything that happened after. And isn’t it interesting that his conversion on that road to Damascus was cloaked in failure?
He was completely broken.
Invalided off the road.
The definition of who he was? Completely shattered.
In that moment of blindness, he’s completely dependent upon others for maybe the first time in his life. That zeal to persecute Christ through the early church had become everything to him and when he failed at it — when every ounce of that strength was stripped away — only then was the door opened to restoration in his life. Yes, there was amazing strength that followed in his ministry. And Yes, he preached and modeled an exquisite example of Christian courage to untold generations of believers (you and me!) who would follow after. But it’s that time of failure that changed the course of everything about who he was, and who he could become in Christ.
Failure in Hebrew is: kachash
We need it.
We must have it order to endure. Fortitude cannot develop without failures in the testing and the trials. It gives birth to humility. We’ll never build our faith muscles if we don’t work them out first. And that failing time? That growing lean in ourselves so we can grow strong in Him (John 3:30)? It’s the only way we get past Acts 9:4-18 to the wholeness that’s beyond it.
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
— Acts 9:28 (KJV)
Acts 9:18 and beyond is all about RESTORATION. In Hebrew, it’s chayah — literally the process of being brought back or restored to life. I don’t know about you, but being restored to life sounds a whole lot more awesome than worrying about a ninja-monster attack. Or emails. Or the frailty that is perfection in a persona.
It’s striving for false wind that bleeds through our fingertips.
Failure is not scary when we know weakness breeds strength. When kachash begets chayah. When failure equals success. When broken so beautifully turns into the built-up.
Fail fast. Fail often. Fail as necessary to be restored to life in Him.
In His Love,