When failure is a feature, not a bug.



Friends had come over for an evening of snacks, tea, and several hours of talking. There were moments where we talked about what had happened at my job, but for the most part, we really did talk about other things...like nursing homes, Washington D.C., airport planning, and chapstick. You know, standard conversational topics.

But we did touch on what had happened at one point.

"I mostly just feel like a repeated failure," I admitted during one of those moments. "It is confusing, because I try to do the best work I can do, and to do the right thing. And apparently it's not enough."

Doubt and failure. Feeling like you'll never see anything to completion, do anything successfully, barely able to start something new, feeling yourself hollowly nodding to clients when they ask if you can do the work while pretty sure you can't, sure you will never step out and try something again because you clearly weren't meant for it, and all while trapped in a perfectionist's body. It's awful.

You try your best. Work your hardest. Learn as much as you can. Keep your skills sharp. Practice. Listen. Show care for people even if you're struggling. Read what's relevant. Research. Show up. Put in sweat equity. Draw on all you know how to do and offer to use it. Give of time and money. Brainstorm. Participate. Plan.

Yes, you can put the best of your mind, your energy, your muscles, your thoughts, your ideas, your heart -- all that you have to offer -- but it's no guarantee.

So I had arrived at this thought: All of my hardest work and best efforts and intentions were not enough to overcome the failure of me.

The best of me was no match for the worst of me. The best couldn't outweigh the worst. I was unequally balanced, with the scales tipping towards failure. This is made even worse because people will often say "you're so talented" and, in this equation, the size of the good side means the failure side is even greater.

Nothing I can do is enough. Not even the best I can do will suffice. Somewhere, some little guy is waiting to can you. You can jump through 500 hoops but if you miss a particular one, out the door.

The world might tell me that's a feature, not a bug. It might suggest that these things are features that make me an individual, tough, a fighter, trailblazer -- whatever -- that I should be proud of. That's garbage and an unsettled place to be. I don't find much rest there, because it's a cycle that has no win, just pride and falls and a sense of hopelessness at its core.

Then I got to thinking of Jesus, of who He is and what He did.

As I noted in a private Facebook group where we talk about our faith and (will soon be starting) Bible studies, the Bible reading program I'm in this year has me in Leviticus right now. This is not my favorite book. Pretty much anything other than Leviticus would be helpful at this point in my life. All of the talk of animal sacrifice, with its gory detail on how to gut the animal, makes me lightheaded and dry gag.

But as I keep reading all of the laws and rules, the one thing that comes to mind is this: I am so thankful that Jesus came and took care of it once and for all so we don't have to follow all of those rules and sacrifices. There's clearly no way I'd pull it off.

All of my good works and best efforts, all the best I humanly have to offer, is not enough to overcome the failure -- the sin -- in me.

Not of me, but in me.

Because of Jesus, I am not the failure, but the victor. He covered it all on the cross, and lives today so that I can as well.

So as long as I understand who Jesus is and what He did, I know that my inability to balance out sin and failure with good works is a feature and not a bug simply because it brings me to a place where I understand my need for Him. I shouldn't allow one or a thousand people's dismissal of me, whatever the scenario, to define my identity.

This is still going to be a struggle. I wrote these words but I'm not exactly solidly there yet. Probably won't be for some time. But Leviticus, for all its gore and rules, serves as a good reminder of who to look towards.

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