Monday, October 15, 2012

I've Failed

Failure is one of those things that none of us really wants attached to our name, our identity and definitely not our legacy.

In our culture it has a real stigma attached to it. A stigma that can sidetrack, sideline and totally knock out, the best of the best from achieving greatness in their sport, business, education, relationships and ministry.

Failure is something that we are taught to avoid at all costs, but recently as I thought back to an inspirational poster that I had hanging on my office wall for years, I began to wonder if we have the failure idea all wrong.

Now I’m not talking about purposely going out there and tanking a shot, or blowing a ministry opportunity. No I’m talking about doing the absolute very best that we can at all times, but when we do fall short realizing that it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow and get back out there to do it better the next time.

I realize that there are circumstances that people fall into that will take them out of eligibility for a certain role because of a moral decision that caused them to fall. Ministry is a perfect example of that. I mean how many times have we heard of a Pastor or ministry leader of some sort making choices that have morally compromised themselves and disqualified them from ministry? Too many times that’s for sure.

So, as I talk about failure, I’m talking more about times we’ve given it all we have and have done our very best with the right motives, for the right reasons and still ended up not achieving the ideal we set out to accomplish…we failed, so now what?

Well, I wonder if we took the message of the poster I had hanging on my wall to heart as it relates to failure, if we would learn to spend less time on the sidelines after we bomb, especially in ministry!

The poster was of Michael Jordan and in bold letters across the top it said “I’ve Failed.” Now think about that for a second, this is Michael Jordan arguably the best basketball player of all time. When I think of MJ words like, Dynasty, Rings, Championships, Olympic Gold, Dream Team, Foul Line Dunk and Best ever, come to mind…certainly not “I’ve Failed”, but that’s what the poster said. It then went on to list some specific areas where he failed in his career…

· I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career
· I’ve lost almost 300 games
· 26 times I was trusted to take the game winning shot, and missed
· I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life

Then the key to the whole thing for me is the closing line of the poster which says “That is why I succeed!”
Check out the Nike commercial that shows this as well...

Interesting, now I don’t think Michael Jordan is saying “go out there and give it your worst effort, it’ll be ok.” I think he’s on to a very important truth, that we need to take to heart especially as we seek to serve the Lord in our ministries.

That truth is “Serve God with all you got for the right reasons expecting to see success, but when you fall short…stop, pray, evaluate, debrief, pray some more, and make the changes needed to do better next time with God’s help.”

If you think about it, MJ’s career totally morphed over the years as he got older. In the beginning he was known for high flying, dazzling dunks that made your jaw drop. He was a scorer, and a very good one at that, but he always took heat for not playing defense, and not being a team player.

What did he do? He just went to work and became the best defensive player in the league and added some high assist records to his repertoire as well. He also developed a deadly fade away jump shot as he got older that only added more dimensions to an already stellar career…He Morphed, his game based on his failures and became the greatest success that basketball has ever seen. He didn't give up, and he certainly didn't make excuses.

I’ve been thinking a lot about morphing and learning and growing in ministry lately, and I think that a perspective change is what’s needed in order to learn from the past and go to the next level in our personal walks with the Lord as well as our ministries.

The other day as I was in the car with my family we were playing “punch bug” as we looked for Volkswagen Bugs and yelled out “Punch bug Yellow” or ‘Punch bug red”, whenever we spotted one on the road. We were having a lot of fun as we scanned the horizon of the highway and picked out the VW bugs from among all the other cars and yelled out Punch Bug!

There was some training and education involved there on my part with my kids, I mean I had gone over with them what a punch bug was and what a punch bug wasn’t, so they could discern between a Grand Am and a VW (I didn’t want to get punched accidentally over a Nissan or something.)

So as we were going along in our mini-van a sweet looking blue car went flying by us in the passing lane. My son yells out “Punch Bug Blue!” and proceeds to hall off and punch me in the arm big time! He was laughing, and laughing and taunting me because he now had the lead in our punch bug-athon.

I looked at my wife and she looked at me and all I could say was “I’ve Failed as a father!” She laughed and laughed at that. You see the blue car that went whizzing by us was sure enough, blue. The only problem was that it wasn’t a small, rounded, trunk in the front, engine in the back, “rubber band” powered, poke along punch bug. No this car was a high end, masterpiece of finely tuned machinery. It was none other than a Porsche!

“I’ve failed as a father”, is what I said, and even though it was funny it made me think of all the times in my life that I have failed, and all the times in my life when I am going to fail with my kids, my wife, my ministry, my friends and with my Savior.

I’m going to fail, that’s inevitable, I’m human, but what I do with it, how I learn from it, how I build safe-guards into my life to avoid it, and how I move forward in a stronger fashion because of it, are the keys.

I think if we’re going to learn from our failures we need to have a pretty locked in relationship with the Lord where we’re open to His spotlight of truth in our lives, and are willing to make changes where needed.

I also think we need to have people who we have “given permission” to speak truth into our lives. People we trust, people who have our best interest at heart, and people who aren’t afraid to look at our potential, measure where we are in relationship to that potential and honestly challenge us with the hard truths that are going to make us better.

I think about Biblical characters like Moses, Elijah, Abraham and Paul. Guys who accomplished great things for God but also had great failures in their lives. What did they do? How did they overcome? What was their secret? These are the kinds of questions that are driving my Bible study these days as I want to be the best that I can be for the Lord, for the long haul.

I want to be a success according to God’s definition, and I’m learning that growing from failure is
a big part of that.

I want to be able to say “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and because of GOD'S GRACE, that is why I succeed!”