Worth failing at

"I think this is something worth failing at"

Have you heard me use this phrase before? It's not a phrase I created, but it's one I find helpful.

As we follow Jesus, we frequently find ourselves facing the possibility of failure.

Por ejemplo, we struggle against sin in our lives, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - failure may find us. We will do what we don't want to do. But struggling against sin is something worth failing at.

We try to change the world, to be salt and light for Jesus, or even just to renew the campus, but we know that somewhere out there - a day, a week, a month or an hour from now - what we're building might collapse.

It's scary.

Many of us in and around the W&L community have what personality psychologists call "high achievement motivation." There's not space to really get into it here, but there's some fascinating research that's been done on folks like us. People with high achievement motivation tend to set "moderately difficult but potentially achievable goals." We tend to be highly independent and tend to shy away from risks when we feel the outcomes are beyond our control (see McClelland's research for more information).

But in the following of Jesus, we are constantly thrown into situations where we are not in control and where we have to depend on others: God, our friends, our families, etc. I mean, let's face it: our mission as Christians does not fit into the "moderately difficult" category. What we're called to is impossible without miracles. Love your enemies? Love your neighbor? Love God? Impossible. And here's a danger for us: when asked to try the impossible, we may give up. We may play it too safe.

How can I face a future filled with failure after failure? My identity and sense of self-worth are so tightly tied to my successes. This makes following God seem unsafe. In fact, it might be the most unsafe thing we can do.

But we don't serve and love a safe God or a God who played it safe. In Jesus, we see both radical dependence and an emptying of control (Phil. 2). In the beautiful mystery of the Trinity, the Son - filled with the Spirit - submits to the Father. In the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation, though God is still God, God also becomes man and - as man - becomes dependent. And somehow, though he is mysteriously dependent and out of control (don't read too much into that), his identity is not contingent on his performance. He is the Beloved Son - with whom the Father is well pleased - long before he conquered sin and death and the devil.

So...remembering his example and experiencing his presence and power, let's do the things that God calls us to do, things that are worth doing even if we risk failure.

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