Twenty-first century Americans applaud success and put video of failures in loop mode. Perhaps it makes us feel superior as we laugh at someone else’s failures and smile with relief our failure isn’t on YouTube. Each time a political candidate utters a blooper while being recorded, I think of my many verbal miscues that day and am relieved the blogs aren’t skewering me for them.
Whether or not Thomas Edison (who didn’t invent the light bulb by the way) said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work”, I would still love to have his attitude. I would like to see a failure as proof I tried something new and different rather than sticking with the tried and true. But I’m not there yet.
Thankfully Jesus is not surprised by my failures; in fact he knows they will occur. Last fall I studied the book of Mark in a seminary class devoted solely to that text. Dr. Grant Osborne stressed the importance of Jesus’ predictions of his death in chapters 8, 9 and 10. Each of these teachings is given only to the disciples though “they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it”. (Mark 9:32) He knew they were clueless, yet continued to instruct them and tell them he would rise after three days.
After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples head to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26). Jesus tells them they will all fall away, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee”. With his usual bravado and self-confidence, Peter denies he will fall away even when Jesus replies and tells Peter his denial will happen that very evening.
Jesus knew the disciples would fail and fall away, yet he still wanted to meet them in Galilee for he had a mission for them to accomplish. He said so before his death and afterwards. The young man in a white robe confirms Jesus’ desire when he speaks to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome at the tomb on resurrection morning, He instructs them to tell the disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you”. (16:7)
Failure, even epic failure such as Peter’s, doesn’t surprise God nor does it drive him away from wanting relationship with us. Jesus still wanted to see his rag-tag band of disciples and his plans for Peter to be a leader in the church still stood; nothing had changed.
These vignettes give me a new perspective on failure. I doubt I will ever grow to like or relish it, but I can have confidence Jesus isn’t laughing at me or removing me from his list of usable disciples. He knows full well my humanity and weaknesses and future failings, but he still wants to meet with me. He still wants to meet with you, too.
What challenge does failure present in your life? How have you dealt with failure?