CMCW 21. Failure is an Option


“We’re all put to the test… but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?” – Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins from the movie, “The Edge”)

Failure is an option? We like our tests a little more clear-cut then they tend to come, don’t we? We’d like a trumpet announcing, “This is a test.” Or some gigantic neon arrow sign. Sometimes we feel something is important, but we have no clue what the tests we face look like before they happen. So we’d really like one of those annoying “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system” announcements some TV channels perform. It would be nice to have something pop up on our cell phone or TV or computer screen announcing that we are headed into “swiftly moving, likely to cause paralyzation if I screw this up” waters.

But the truth is failure happens to everyone. Failure is an option. And it is in failing we learn more about our substance and our lack. These are the choices/moments which stretch our faith or show we have no faith. They show the substance or lack of our character, demonstrate the weight of our relationships, show us the people and things we have been holding too tightly and how to let them go.

These Moments whether we label them “tests” or Life prove something about us:

  • what we are made of (our character),
  • what/who we glorify (our idols, what or who we worship),
  • who we are really living for (our purpose – where we find approval, who/what matters to us most),
  • and why we do the things that we do (our motives matter)…

Life “Tests” are more stealth-like then we would like.

One day everything seems fine, we are going about our business and BAM! What seems to be out of left field is a failure so excruciating we did not see it coming. OR perhaps failing happened over a long period of time, we never noticed: an addiction we did not know how to give up, a toxic relationship we could not release, a suffocating life theme we failed to shake, or a pattern we failed to identify until years after it started. However it happened…

Failure is an Option

Failure is something we fear when we are younger. Although it probably is not something we “grow out of.” When you are young and have the whole world wide open before you – stumbling and falling flat on your face does not seem like a viable option. So we work hard to avoid failing. But then we bomb anyways.

We bomb at life or love or work or something profound and we aren’t prepared for it.

It isn’t like most wise grownups are pulling out their Failure Resumes to let us know all the ways they have bombed at life. No one wants to broadcast that stuff. But we wake up hitting rock bottom… anyways.


We Fail At Big Things

One day we realize we royally bombed some major Divine mandates to: love, extend grace, live mercy, seek justice, and while being a source of hope & authentic encouragement to those around us.

  • We lied to a friend.
  • Stole from work.
  • Cheated on a lover.
  • Failed to encourage or offer hope.
  • Doubted ourselves.
  • Shamed our kids.
  • We caused more harm than good.

The bottom line is that we have royally screwed things up…and now we are facing true consequences.

Not the consequences those emotional blackmailers try to throw at us when we are non-compliant with their agendas. Because honestly sometimes we make choices which seem like failure, but really we made the best possible choice for us. Some consequences are completely worth it. Some fallout is bearable because staying in toxic patterns is more harmful to our spirits than leaving. Failing is staying in toxicity – winning is learning and letting go.

NO this consequence is something we are now facing because we: couldn’t be kind, couldn’t forgive, refused to give someone space in their life, refused to listen and respect, opened our mouths in gossip, spent time blaming instead of getting real about our part, we lied or stole or cheated.

We stumble and fall and hurt.

Failing hurts like hell.

So for a very long time I hurt like hell. And then one day I woke up and the pain left. I hurt less and less until it was gone. The phantom pains no longer exist.


Failure is Inevitable

Failure is an option. It is inevitable and purposeful. It might not feel like it at the time, but failing can root us, teach us, and open us up to a more expansive understanding of ourselves and others.

Understanding ourselves and others better is always a good thing.

But in the moment stumbling is painful. You end up on the rocky bottom, take stock of your body, and wonder if you will ever be able to get back up again. Once you do get up, what will this new you be like?

One of the things I learned on the path is that God is LOVE. This is true. People choose cruelty and ugly, but the Divine is consistently LOVE. Two scripture verses which held me when I started to move forward again after coming undone:

“You will make known to me the path of life…” Psalm 16:11a

“You choose our inheritance for us.” Psalm 47:4a (I changed the pronoun)

These verses have consistently met me along the way.

Because our failures are never the end of us.

Our failures are redeemable. It might take hard work. We may have to sweat a ton to get back to some path which makes sense.


But I see failure as holy work. Our fractured parts become building pieces for wholeness. I don’t always know how it works out this way, but it does. So we can attempt to avoid it like crazy or we can understand failure moves us closer to our wholehearted, authentic selves.

We can royally screw up, face painful, horrific consequences, but the failing shapes us differently. Yes, it can help to make you bitter, unforgiving, and mean if you allow it to, but if you give it half a chance failure shapes you into a more lovely, and good, understanding and compassionate being. When you know what falling flat on your face looks like and feels like it becomes easier to shout goodness over the lives of those who need to hear they are going to be OK in their failing too.

It hurts like hell, but the pain does not need to be forever.

Failure is certainly an option ….but that doesn’t have to be the end of you. It can be a whole new beginning. If you let it.

“Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer” (Anne Lamott, “Help Thanks Wow”).

Still Here,


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Finally this is part 20 from a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.

You can find the rest of the series below:

  1. Introduction
  2. Coming Undone
  3. Pit of Despair
  4. Healing Takes Time
  5. The Act of Seeing
  6. Mean Church Girls
  7. You are NOT Good Enough
  8. A Year of Silence
  9. Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
  10. I Felt Duped
  11. Critical, Sexist Church Men
  12. Anniversary of Tears
  13. Conservative Christian Women Support Trump
  14. Generational Consequences of Violence Against Women
  15. Four Ways Faith Shifts Affect Children
  16. I am behind on a few of these.
  17. A missing post is my life as a mother of five living with an Autoimmune disease
  18. Can An Unhealthy Church Raise Healthy Children? – Sexual Abuse in the Church
  19. The Words We Allow
  20. Three Essentials Healthy Families Offer Children
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