Wow, its been a long time since I have been able to post, even though a number of things have crossed my mind and spurned lots of thoughts. And it has been an eventful week- two days in Galveston, The Point Annual Benefit Dinner, Sunday services, Sunday Care Group with the Pipes, work at Compositech, new employee physical and health screening (with additional shots of MMR and Tdap (Tetanus with pertussis), both of which were way easier than I thought), and possibly some golf. It is a good week, and one in which leads up to my starting as a chaplain at Texas Children’s Hospital this next Monday.
It is all very cool, very joyful, and very humbling.
But as I have thought about all of this, I have been reminded of the role of success and failure in all of this. Many people that failure is never acceptable on the way to greatness (not that I know anything about greatness). We may push ourselves or our kids and never accept anything but success. But what made the greats so great is that they used their failures and learned from them, as though failure is simply a springboard.
In truth, we must fail many times to be successful, and sometimes even that simple success is fleeting. I heard a story from a recently billionaire-ized (a word?) woman who said her dad would come to the dinner table and ask how everyone had failed that dad and then applauded each of their failures. While that is maybe more direct than my preference, it is an important reminder of the necessity of failure in our lives. In my own life, I can look at my basketball career as an example. I was a simple shooter with no other skills in high school, but I remember that first time I drove to the hoop and got my ball sent to third row (blocked shot). But I continued working, learning, and trying all over again, sometimes being an awful failure and being embarrassed. But I was not deterred, and now am seen more for driving than my shot remarkably. I have learned how to be a good friend by way of failures and successes. It didn’t work that first time when friends told me about their problems and then with no acknowledgment I asked them bluntly if they wanted to play basketball (yes I did when I was younger!). It also didn’t work when I showed up late to things I had promised- after failure I learned to get better and better. In college, I had to practice my humor over and over again, cause I was certainly not very funny at all. School was in itself an exercise in trying to learn, failing, and then trying another time. In high school, I played Bible Bowl and my coach would always tell us that failure to remember the answer was only the beginning, not the end, and that life was certainly not over- there was another question, another round, another Bowl, another relationship to focus on. And certainly, I cannot forget my chaplaincy residency. Numerous times I came from a visit and repeated the conversation to my fellow residents and supervisors and we looked at different responses, more effective follow ups, more understanding in my behavior- any which way we could turn “failure” into a learning experience.
Failure is a learning experience. I would not be here today if failure was the end. But it isn’t and I am privileged to be at this position in my career, in my friendships, even in my basketball play, because others helped me make failure a tool.
Which is the same for faith by the way. Failure in faith is the opportunity to confess, seek forgiveness, and learn about why I messed up and get better. In fact, failure can be a real way to reconcile and find our relationship with God again. Failure in church is an opportunity to grow. When we fail at an activity that isn’t what we wanted or needed, we can learn from it, learn the weaknesses, and provide something that is better, more faithful, and much more joyful the next time. That is what evangelizing and sharing my faith are about anyway- taking the risks that include failure so that I might win others, so that I might show compassion to others, so that any human being might see God somehow. And we keep trying, whether in faith or community, and we grow closer and closer to one another and to God.
Failure is not failure. It is a learning experience, it is growth, it is only the beginning.