Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Courage to Fail

I've had a headache now for over three months.

But I don't want that to be the focus of this post, it's just my preamble.  And yes I have been to the doctors and it is ongoing.

As I prayed one morning, sort of saying, "God WHY have I got this wretched headache??"  The word 'abide' dropped into my consciousness.

Aha! Abide! Yes, I know that.  John's Gospel.  I can't produce fruit unless I abide, etc.  Reminds me of Basil the Branch (a favourite children's book around here), he was really straining to produce fruit and the Vine tells him to just wriggle his shoulders and stay in the Vine.  OK, so maybe I'm straining too much to produce fruit.  I need to abide.  I neeeed toooo abiiiiiiiiiiiiide *strains to abide*

So abiding is making my headache worse and off I go to church.  We have a visiting preacher and he talks about something I might share another time.  But afterwards there is an invitation to go up for prayer.  I go up, the preacher and his wife pray, and then she stands for a while, eyes shut, just holding my hand.  After a time she says to me, "You need to stop striving".

I know it's true.  How do I stop striving?

A couple of weeks later I still have a headache.  I ask my Tuesday night church group to pray for me.  One of the elders prays for me and says, "God is saying you need to not strive".  Another chap in the group said that the same word plopped into his head too - 'strive'.

So of course I burst into tears, because I know it's true.  God's pursuing me with this word.

But I don't know how to not strive.

I have striven all my life.

That old cultish church [we left in June 2012, which I had attended since I was four], was all about striving.  God was perpetually disappointed in me.  He was not angry, because He loves me, but He was broken-hearted over my failure to live up to being 'perfect Christian girl'.  My pastor, a demi-god in the church, was perpetually disappointed in me - I was apparently like 'a daughter' to him, but I never lived up to his expectations.  He was never angry, just sad and disappointed.  Time and time again I would go to the pastor, and cry and say I couldn't cope with all the meetings and the expectations - and he would sigh, put his hands over his eyes and tell me [in a roundabout manipulative way] how sad he was that I had failed again...oh but he loved me, but he was so 'hurt' that I couldn't do what the LORD was telling me I should do.

Oh how the pastor of my old church wept day and night because the Kingdom of God wasn't coming on earth and the sick weren't being healed.  If only the 'Body of Christ' [i.e. the people in that particular church] would be more 'one', more in agreement with the preaching.

The Kingdom would not come onto earth because of me.  The sick would not be healed because of me.  I am a terrible blockage to the work of God.

The weight of God's disappointment hovered over me like a cloud day and night.  I had hurt God.  He was so sad with me.  What a let down I am.  The weight of the church leadership's disappointment in me made me so want to please, to make people happy.

For as long as I can remember, I am super vigilant to people's sighs, or their facial expressions, or their body language.  Are they disappointed?  Have I hurt them?  Have I let them down with my selfishness?

It takes courage to fail.

When you are a hyper-vigilant, scrupulous, perfectionist whose entire life has been built around the doctrine that weakness and failure are devastating to God and man, no wonder I have a headache.

I realised yesterday for the first time, that every night-time I get into bed, review my day, declare it to be a failure and plan for tomorrow to be better.  Tomorrow I will do better.  Tomorrow my house will be perfect. Tomorrow I will be a better mother. Tomorrow I will pray more.  Tomorrow I will selflessly give my time to others. Tomorrow I won't collapse into bed mid-afternoon exhausted and defeated.  Tomorrow I will be light and life to all I see!

It takes courage to fail.

It takes courage to fail because we live in a culture of visible success.  The church may preach a message of hope, but very often, even in 'healthy' churches, in the day-to-day living it out the message is a subtle, 'do, do, do'.

There is, of course, a balance to be found.  We must do, but where does my 'do' come from? Is it about impressing people, impressing God, or does it come from that deep well of life?  Do I truly believe, as Paul did, that in my weakness Christ's power is seen? Do I understand that if I'm not well enough, don't have the time, or cannot find a way to do something that God is not asking me to do it?  God makes a way, if he doesn't then I don't need to do it.

"Sometimes saying no is saying a better yes" - Ann Voskamp

Do I also understand that very often I will mess up and that's OK?  If I wasn't a mess then I wouldn't need Jesus, if I don't need Jesus then I am my own god and my own compass and my own pathway.

It takes courage to fail. Because knowing you're a failure requires faith in something bigger than your own strength and ability.  Abide in Christ.  He will produce the fruit.

“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened," He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way.” ― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out


  1. I know about striving. But I also know that if you don't find time to rest in God's arms, there is a danger of burn out. We all fail to hit out targets, so let go of some of them!
    Praying for you dear Sarah.

  2. praying for you too!

  3. I love you Sarah, and I've always admired your strength and your honesty. I think we can be our own worst critics and we sometimes put these expectations on ourselves that no one else does. When we see or think we see them disappointed in us, it's usually US that are projecting that onto them, and not the other way around.

    Don't be so hard on yourself, remember that we are children of God and we will stumble, and we will fall, but He is always there at the end of the day. As long as you're doing your best, that's what counts and that is what matters :)

    Praying for you.