Marti recently wrote the following, and I quote:
“And of course, it is in all of this that we learn that failure is not such a bad thing. While it is not a word that many of us know, it is what we fear the most. But from my point of view, failure is where I get my best material. I know that God finds this in me to be so.”
I purposely lifted this out of context from her writing because I wanted to be able to extrapolate on it. This is not the first time we’ve stated something like this at the Catch and I promise you it won’t be the last. In fact we have certain themes that repeat themselves often, and that is not because we don’t have enough “material,” it’s because these things run so counter to our natural way of thinking that we need to keep saying it over and over again in as many ways as we possibly can, because truth is like a prism with many faces, each reflecting something different about the same basic thing. And learning its lessons only comes through repeated experiences.
In this case the truth we’re learning is that failure is where we get our best material. Now this is true in many senses of the word.
For instance, a comedian would say his best material was his funniest, and this is also true about failure. There is a humor to failure – a humor that means the joke is on us, but that’s okay because in process of the joke we become human. We get into trouble when we take ourselves too seriously. We try to ride too long on our high horse. Failure brings us down to where everyone else is and where we should be if we were being honest with ourselves. There is a relief in this failure; we don’t have to try so hard. In fact, often the humor is in the trying, and the failure reveals that. It’s always a relief to get down off of whatever pedestal we had ourselves on and laugh at what we looked like up there. Duh … welcome to the human race, John.
In Philippians, Paul lists his Jewish pedigree: “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5,6) and then he calls it all (expletive deleted) compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. There is definitely some good material there, humorously speaking.
Then there is another sense that failure gives us our best material because it produces something solid in us. It is thick, tangible, touchable, as in Madonna’s material world. Failure is where we get our best material because what we get comes from God. We don’t produce it; we only discover it in our failure. When we are weak, then we are strong. God’s grace is sufficient, but it only becomes sufficient in our insufficiency. In the new covenant, we discover our adequacy only when we face into our inadequacy. But in every case it is in our failures that God’s provision becomes real. It’s solid because we didn’t create it or manipulate it. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11). There it is: life revealed. That’s solid.
And finally, failure gives us our best material in that it gives us something we can pass on to others. Because failure is a universal human experience … what we receive from Christ in our failure is something we can always give to others in theirs. This is part of what brings us together, our mutual need.
So next time you face your own failure, relax. You’re going to get some great new material out of this!