09 June 2005

Failure in Common

Struggle, struggle, struggle. How easy it is to believe that's the story of my life. And I couldn't be more wrong. Failure really sucks most of the time. To have it rubbed in your nose makes things worse. Or so it would appear. In reality, we all have failure in common. It is the universally equal experience. Oh sure, people like Scot, Neal, Corey, or Josh have never failed at anything in their lives; but I'm sure their chance will come. At least that's what I tell myself whenever I'm feeling snippy for how perfect their lives are. ;-) Then out of nowhere I get a little snog and "poof" perspective is restored. With fresh eyes it is much easier to see that no matter how I struggle, I'm just a commoner. No matter how I succeed, I'm just a commoner. Win, lose, draw, I'm just ordinary, plain, vanilla...normal. Mostly. As I struggled (there's that dang word again!) to embrace my status as commoner I found some encouragement from some other commoners. In Acts 4, when the disciples began to preach that Jesus had arisen, one of the reasons that the leaders of the day had it in for them was because they were commoners.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
-- Acts 4:13
These were not the type of men who led revolutions and inspired the masses! If they were just commoners, why were they being so successful in changing the world around them? Why did they represent such a threat to distorted normality? One clue to the difference can be found by reading the Gospel depictions of these men. In my studies I have read many biographies about influential people, cult leaders, corporate giants, political visionaries, and various movement figureheads. In almost every case they read like fairy tales. The key individuals never lie, they always do their duty, they show courage in the face of danger or adversity. Sure there are always the initial let-downs and challenges. The character building failings that they have to overcome as they evolve into the heros they are known to be. Excluding their detractors who try and bloat any small short-comings, the general picture of their lives is rosy and perfection-filled. Compare this to the disciples. These guys are portrayed with so many shortcomings and failings that you sort of wonder why they didn't fire their press agents sooner. There are numerous examples telling of the disciples bickering about which one will be the greatest; about how they doubted that Jesus could feed four thousand people even after he already fed 5,000. They wanted Him to call down fire on a village simply because the villagers didn’t like their preaching! The disciples fail again and again to understand the simplest parables. In fact they were so dense that one day Jesus even said “Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” -- Mark 4:13. If the disciples were commoners, being a commoner must be okay. I'll certainly screw up at least as bad as any of them ever did, and it's a pretty sure bet it happens more often judging by the sheer volume of my bumbling. Conversely, the likelihood that I will ever do anything miraculous (or even noteworthy) starts at impossible and vanishes from there. Being a commoner who has Faith means you will be a commoner who Fails. The good news is that the Faith more than makes up for the Failure. At least from where I'm standing...on the fresh side of yet another Failure, one more step up another mountain of Faith.

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