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Archive for the ‘Failure’ Category

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  – Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but for many years I had the fear that people would really find out that I was much more of a mess than I appeared.

I’ll never forget the day that I had to sit down before my family and close friends and admit to a string of failures that had spanned a number of years. Sparing the gory details, just believe me when I say I was a train wreck. Without realizing it, I was missing out on major sources of wholeness in my life – for many reasons. Among them was the fact that I was trying to be “the hero” as I call it, moving through life like a knight in shining armor while neglecting key relationships with those around me.

As I interact with people on a personal level more and more I see that people, especially men, are much more alike than we are different, at least when it comes to opening up about our fears, failures and imperfections. I realize that I’m speaking in generalities but I do see some consistent trends.

We men, in general, don’t like to admit that we have needs.

We men, in general, work hard to cover up fears, failure and imperfections so that others will think the best of us.

We men, in general, think that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and if we go there will make us even more of a failure than we think we already are.

Several years ago, through a God-ordained and defining experience of personal failure and brokenness I discovered just the opposite.

When I started to shed the cloak of “perfection” and began to more openly confess and admit my sin, failure and imperfection I actually discovered that people can be forgiving. They can be loving and accepting too.

It’s fascinating to me that true confession is actually getting the bad stuff out in the open so everyone, including myself, can say, “Yes, that’s horrible! But I love and forgive you. I know the bad stuff is not the real you!”

One of my first experiences of confession outside of my closest family members came when I asked to see a couple with whom my wife and I had come to know very well. I was almost certain when I walked into their home that it might be the last time I would ever enter their door. After they heard what I had to say that might, in my thinking, be the last time they would ever talk to me. Confession was on my heart and rejection was my expectation.

To my amazement, after hearing my broken, heartfelt confession my friends embraced me in a way I had never experienced before. Their response was just the opposite of what I was expecting.

I stumbled reluctantly into the reality that humility and vulnerability hold the key to the door of forgiveness and restoration.

Really, we don’t relate well to people who are fake – trying to make others believe they are something other than who they are.

As I’ve lived with this new lease on life for some years now I see that I grew up with a perspective that some counselors call “splitting.” It’s the idea that internally we “split” ourselves, others and the world into “all good” or “all bad.” This perspective will not endure reality over time. The very best of us have badness and imperfection all mixed together and it’s reflected in our world as well.

Since we all have failings and imperfections, why not admit to them? I have found that to be healthy and whole I have to live this way.

The verse quoted above from the Apostle Paul is an instruction to people of faith in Jesus to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. It’s not a suggestion! It’s a command based on what Jesus has already done for all mankind. The perfect man gave His life for completely imperfect people. How can we follow Him without confessing our sin to others, asking for their forgiveness and forgiving them?

In order to pull this off we need to have communities of people who express faith in Jesus and follow Him to be modeling this – daily! That’s a challenge to me, but it’s a challenge to you as well. We need environments of grace and relationships of trust in order to make this work, but that’s another subject!

What are you hiding today and from whom? What do you fear that someone close to you might find out about you? What are you not disclosing to a friend or family member?

What I didn’t know was that what I was hiding with the greatest passion could actually lead to greater wholeness and happiness in my life if I only would admit to failure as a starting point.

When I started taking more steps toward vulnerability in my own life, carefully exposing my failures to trusted friends and family and dropping my “appearance” of arrogance and perfection, I found people to be much more forgiving and accepting than I realized.

Humility and vulnerability truly hold the key to the door labelled “forgiveness.”

I’m certainly never going get everything right and I’ll never be perfect in this life. But I can say that greater wholeness of life came home to my heart when my imaginary “knight in shining armor” got down off of his horse and started seeking grace and forgiveness. It’s freely available to the humble of heart.

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“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’” – 2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NIV)

One of the big items in the news this week is the Ashley Madison Hack. For those who may be uninformed “Ashley Madison” is a website based in North America that helps people to facilitate adulterous affairs. When the website was hacked recently it resulted in the public exposure of the private liaisons of literally thousands of people. I haven’t been following the gossip but evidently there are some very well-known people of great public influence whose reputations are now forever soiled.

It’s now being reported in Christian circles that up to 400 pastors in North America may be handing in their resignations this Sunday because of exposure from the hack. (cf. www.relevantmagazine.com) This is, of course, a huge tragedy and one with far-reaching implications.

When people fail, especially those we trust, it hurts us deeply. The closer we are to them the more it hurts. Perhaps you can relate to me as one who has been both villain and victim.

I’m quite sure that most everyone who was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack never envisioned that their private sins would be made public. The more committed we are to individuality in our modern world the more we lose sight of the fact that our private lives have public implications.

For those of us well acquainted with failure – both our own and others – we learn a lot from the life of King David as recorded in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. David was a very public figure, a “man after God’s heart” and ruler of God’s chosen people. Yet in a moment of weakness he decided to have a private party with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. No one else was invited and that’s the way he wanted it.

Unfortunately, in the real world, as in the case of Ashley Madison, private parties become public eventually. As we read in 2 Samuel 12, David’s sin was exposed by the prophet Nathan and he paid a huge price for his misdeeds. His private party got “hacked” and rightly so.

It’s natural for us to want joy and pleasure in life. But when we want joy and pleasure exclusively for ourselves it turns nasty when we close out others close to us and have a private party with our secret pleasures.

In recent years, after reflecting on my own battles and failures, I’ve been learning that we were made for God’s pleasure who desires a deep and satisfying relationship with us. The enemy of our souls will always provide counterfeits and deceives us into thinking that we can close ourselves off from God and others to “get what we want.” Unfortunately, the private party always comes to a shocking and painful end.

One of my new life resolutions is – “No more private parties! God has a better plan!”

David, perhaps on one of his better days, reflecting on his life – both good and bad – penned these words –

“I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:8-11 (NIV)

That’s the best description I know of the most enjoyable “party” anyone could attend. It’s public and it’s free for the asking! Everyone who attends is promised eternal pleasures and there no risk of exposure!

As we learn to embrace failure – both ours and others – let’s remember that we were created for pleasure. The One who created us holds the key and invites us to seek Him and enjoy Him every moment of our lives.

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