Failure... the pathway to success

My first experience of water-skiing was on the Murray River many years ago. My cousins lived on a farm just outside of Murray Bridge, with a beach on the river bank. I stood in awe as I watched them ski up and down the river on just about anything you could name – including an old fence paling. Their much-recited credo was “if you don’t fall off, you aren’t trying”. I have to admit that my first effort at water-skiing consisted of a lot of trying!

Of the many things which shape us in life, our attitude to failure could perhaps be one of the most significant. People who take risks and seek to stretch themselves into new areas run the risk of both success and failure. Those who seek to avoid failure all together generally run well within their comfort zones. Yet it is in failure that we learn our greatest and most memorable lessons. As embarrassing as it can be, it is in failure that we begin to discover our limits, that we learn to recognise the provision and grace of God.

We have all watched the jibes and derision poured upon the Fremantle Football Club in its year without a win. In some ways both their failure and Hawthorn’s successes contributed to the surprise result.
Watching a little child learning to walk, one recognises that failure is an important part of the process. Each step is met with encouragement and support, and failure is not even considered, even though the child invariably falls in the first step or two.

I don’t profess to enjoy failing, but there is an appreciation of the sense that it is in failure that I discover my limits; failure has sometimes resulted because I have endeavoured to stretch myself that little bit more; some has resulted from a lack of attention to important things. And above all, I have learned something about the grace and resources of God - which comfort would never have allowed me to savour. Indeed, it is at times facing the prospect of failure that I have learned most about God’s provision.

The apostle Paul expressed his attitude to failure in this eloquent passage: “The Lord said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
It is only when we put ourselves in positions where failure is a possibility that we become fully alive – fully human – and know the presence and provision of God.

August 12, 2001
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