Making failure an option

“What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?”

A friend asked me that question almost three years ago, and the words are still echoing in my mind.  At the time I was wrestling with a major life/vocation/what now decision.  I wanted to know for sure that I was hearing from God, that I was headed in the right direction.  I wanted certainty.  Instead, I got another question.  But this one brought a level of clarity that I wasn’t prepared for.

If I could not fail?  To quote Apollo 13, failure… is not an option.  At least that’s what I’ve grown up telling myself.  I have to succeed, or at least not to fail- which, of course, aren’t the same thing at all.  I have to make it work, to keep plugging away, to not give up.  And those can be good things, important qualities.  But when avoiding failure is the primary goal, there’s a real problem.  Trying to avoid failure will inevitably lead to a life marked by playing it safe, avoiding risk.  In short, a life of little impact.

And just look at the pages of Scripture- it’s littered with folks who failed- often repeatedly.  Abraham, Moses, David- all had failures of pretty colossal magnitude.  Peter failed in spectacular fashion at the moment of greatest crisis.  Apparently to God- failure is indeed an option.  In fact, God seems to specialize in working with people who are willing to- you guessed it- fail.  Because these are the folks who are willing to put themselves on the line- to live boldly.

And I’m more convinced than ever that what the church of Jesus needs is people who are willing to fail.  Willing to put themselves “out there”- to entrust themselves to a God who would rather we leap in faith than retreat in timidity.  God is plenty powerful and loving enough to redeem our failures and our blunders.  I sense that He’s just longing for us to believe that long enough to take Him up on it.

So let me put the question to you that is still in my heart.  Don’t set it aside too quickly.  Let it make you uncomfortable, even.

What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?

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