A couple of weeks ago, Facebook brought back this picture we had posted back in the fall of 2013. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was an exciting day. We were at the restaurant drawing out plans and next steps for our new adventure called church planting.
When I saw the picture on my Facebook feed, it got me thinking about failure.
Failure. No one likes it. There are always well meaning people who will be quick to say that it’s not failure, it’s a growing opportunity.
Sure. I know. You know.
When it happens it still feels like failure and still needs to be processed for what it seems to be. Whatever it was you were trying to do did not work. You set out for something and didn’t make it. You failed. Technically.
Back to the picture. A year before that picture was taken we were at a Church planters conference in Banff. We had just left the church we had been pastoring for 6 years and said yes to a new journey. For the first 10 months we joined and contributed to the life of the church and team we were partnering with in preparation to launch a parish church in our neighbourhood. Long story short, when the picture was taken, the time had come and it was our turn to begin putting a little more flesh to our church planting plan. So we went for breakfast and talked and planned and dreamed. We were loving what we were doing. We were part of a team we loved, a church community with a vision and passion we embraced and excited about what was slowly beginning to take shape.
What we were trying to do was a bit different than most church plants. We had committed to not rush things and we didn’t want our efforts to revolve around a Sunday gathering. We wanted to plant a community out of relationships, not programs or Sunday glitter. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we took one small, intentional, step at a time.
Fast forward a few months and I find myself sitting in a meeting on a Monday evening in August of 2014. I have no idea what this meeting is about and after sitting down with the two board members who had been assigned to meet with me, they told me the journey was over, that there was no longer any room for us on the team and the project could not continue. It was a money issue of course and I understood. It was over. Turns out we had not established enough of a base to be financially sustainable. I couldn’t quite figure out why this was surprising to anyone given we were just a few months into the whole thing.
It hurt. I didn’t show it that evening. I went along with it, rolled over and said, “of course this makes total sense.” I felt betrayed. I felt used. I felt like I was being fired for doing exactly what I was hired to do in the first place. It sucked. I wanted these people whom I felt had betrayed me to go straight to hell. I returned home and shared the news with my wife. I was at a loss. I had no idea what to do next. I did not have a plan B. Over the next few days I went over the conversations trying to understand and make sense of it all. Truth of the matter is, it made no sense to me. Yet, I had to face the facts. I had failed. I took a risk and it back fired.
Mostly though I was angry at myself for even trying, for stepping out and taking that chance. Who did I think I was? I don’t have what it takes to be successful in such an endeavour. What would others think of me now. I imagined people talking about me and discussing amongst themselves how foolish and immature I was, how I should have just stayed were I was.
There is no denying that it was a learning and growing opportunity. I forgave but I did not forget. I don’t want to forget. How could I?
Was this God’s will for me? Well, I won’t tell you what I think about that. I’ll save it for another post.
Life is made up of a series of events that we qualify as successes and failures based on our own set of values and definitions. Who really knows? Am I better off now that I’ve gone through that “failure” or would I be better off today if I had “succeeded”? I don’t think we can look at it that way. It’s a narrow approach to the complex multiple layers of our lives. Shit happens. Good stuff happens. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering what could have, would have or should have been. All there is, is what is! The real question we need to ask ourselves on any given day and when stuff happens is what will I do with this? How will this event shape me? How will it inform my next steps? Will I grow and move on or become angry, bitter and deflated? Feeling sorry for ourselves is nice for a little while, but then what?
Have you failed at something before? How did it feel? What did you do? Did it set you back, propel you forward or throw you off course for a while? Maybe all the above! Are you still lingering on the effects of “failure”? Could it be time to move on?