The Freedom of Failure

I recently received an email from a dear friend who's serving as a missionary in the Middle East. She's been great about staying in touch and I, well I haven't been.

So she wrote to find out what was wrong. Had something changed in our relationship? Had she offended me somehow or was I not supportive of the work she's doing overseas? She probably asked me a few other questions, but I couldn't read much farther through my increasingly weepy eyes.

She hadn't done a thing wrong. The problem was me. On the surface, it seemed I'd let the busyness of life get in the way of this precious friendship. But what really happened is I lost sight of who I really am. I'd told myself I'd respond to her email, return her phone call, send her support letter when I had more time to think about them.

I like to think of myself as a conscientious person who takes good care of her friends. But the truth is my failings - my laziness, my disorganization, my misplaced priorities - seem to get the best of me more often than I care to admit.

When that happens, I can't get out of the ruts I've created for myself in not knowing my limits, not sticking to my plans, not following through. Unfortunately, the deeper those ruts get, the more overwhelming they seem. And the more overwhelmed I am, the less inclined I am to operate from my "better" self and instead let the lazy, disorganized part of me take the lead.

So I let weeks - that quickly turn into months - slip by between an email from a friend and my response. Or I figure it's been so long since that friend called me that she's either forgotten about it or is so hurt that she doesn't want to hear from me.

It seems to me that the only way I can grow up and out of these failings is to name them and start dealing with them with God's help. Ignoring them certainly hasn't worked. I need to stop pretending that my charm and good looks will cover my multitudinous sins and instead fess up to the ways I've let others down.

The Apostle Paul gives a fine example of what it looks like to name our failings so we can work on them. He writes, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:18-19).

Paul is talking about sin here, how even when we know what sin looks like, we jump right into it. Ignorance isn't our problem. We fool ourselves when we act like we fail because we don't know any better.

We also fool ourselves when we believe we're stuck in the ruts we create in our path toward being the people God made us to be.

Paul goes on to say, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-3).

The freedom God gives us in Christ is what allows us to name our failings without shame - and to move past them with the help of the One who created us for more.

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