Continued from Part 1: Poor TheologyContinued from Part 2: Laziness Many of us in ministry feel like there is an unrealized call on our lives. I know, at least for me, I have certain things God has put in my heart to do and to be. Most of them have to do with my local context and some have a larger scope.
What I have noticed is that there is some poor theology, laziness, and fear of failure that justifies why I am stagnate in my professional development and not living into the larger dream God has put in my life. In my last post I looked at poor theology and laziness. But the biggest hang up might be something even more paralyzing, the fear of failing.
Fear of failing: Our culture has absolutely no place for failures. Ok, there is a place and that is usually on the Jerry Springer Show. For most of us, that is the last place we want to end up. We are a success rich context where doing well is expected, and being excellent is preferred. Failure, is unacceptable. But there is a huge chasm between being a failing and being a failure. While it may be true that failure is unacceptable, failing is a needed exercise if we are ever going to excel in anything.
Think of any task that you have accomplished, any skill that you have mastered, all of them have come with small failures along the way. Everything from learning how to ride a bike, to spelling tests, to leading a small group. None of those things happened correctly the first time. But when we raise the stakes and start exploring a calling into something a little more risky or challenging, we seem to forget that failing is part of the process of development.
When we begin to explore our calling and the challenges start to stretch us past our comfort zone and current skill set, this strange thing happens. The rhythm that has worked for our entire lives in everything we have ever learned all of the sudden becomes a spiritual matter. Success or failure no longer depends on hard work or trial and error. We become hard line Calvinists and throw down lots and let the outcome be the revealing of God's Will.
Sidebar: I am not saying that God's will is not part of discerning your calling or that He doesn't use open and closed doors, or that you should not have the input of your community and confirmation from the Holy Spirit. I am simply saying that we / I often use a failed attempt as God closing a door instead of me just totally whiffing an opportunity.
The cold hard truth is that we are prideful people with sensitive egos. And it becomes second nature for us to protect them at all cost. But if we are going to move forward, live into the person that God is inviting us to become and do the things that he has given us visions for, then we must get over ourselves and remember the lessons from our earliest days. When we fall, we brush our selves off, learn from our mistakes, and take another crack at it.
Part of the hangup might be that the only stories that we ever see are success stories. We look at someone as successful as Oprah and think she just showed up as the most influential person on television. We rarely hear about Oprah's early career, when she was fired, worked at a lousy show, had failed episodes, and really bad hair. We only see the final product. Oprah is Oprah not in spite of her many failures, but it the failures themselves that contributed to the honing of her skills and deepening of her character.
God has give you and me a very real vision of the person that we are to be and the things that we are to be doing in the Kingdom of God. The sad reality is that many of us won't ever live into that person because of this ridiculous fear of failing. At the end of the day, what is the big deal anyway?
We have to get over it! This fear is paralyzing and only plays into our naturally lazy alter ego. The only way forward is to begin to celebrate failing. Failing means that we are taking risks, trying new things, stretching ourselves past our current skill set. Failing means that we are no longer just dreaming or talking, but we are actually taking action. And every failure gives us an opportunity to learn, to develop, and move ever closer towards our calling.
What is the worst thing that could happen if you fail? Aside from doing something incredibly dumb or illegal, the worst thing that will happen is simply a bruised ego. Protecting your ego has to be the biggest stumbling block in moving forward. The person God is calling you to be doesn't just happen, that person is developed and that development happens only through risk and failing, and then some more risk and failing and then more risk and succeeding.
Risk is scary and no one likes it, that is why it is called risk. We have to retrain our brains, and begin to celebrate it, even schedule it in. All of us have different things that we are called to do and consider different things risky. Having a picture of what God is calling you to do is only the beginning. Taking a step towards that goal, risking rejection and failing is part of the process. Failing only becomes failure when you stop moving toward that goal.
When I was younger and still trying to find ways to be relevant and cool, I took up skateboarding. There was a park by our church and I thought this would be a great way to connect with some of the local students. What I quickly learned about skateboarding is that if you are going to be good there will be pain. My dream of being a skateboarder for Jesus was shattered after just one attempt at an ollie.
The real question is: How much pain are you willing to inflict upon your ego to fully realize your God given dream?