On Good Friday a good Jewish man was crucified in a Roman form of execution, condemned to death by the leaders and members of his very own faith. Yeshua of Nazareth, a faithful and devout Hebrew, believed that his mission in life was to his own, to Israel. He fearlessly challenged the powers that be and sought to show a way of being Israel that followed the spirit rather than the letter of the law. He did not come to establish another faith, church or religion as many believe. His words and the following he had threatened the rulers of both Judaism and Rome. His death was to put an end to his mission. It would seem that his mission had been a failure. Indeed, his own followers were destitute and disillusioned at his death and ran away to hide. They believed that what he stood for and taught them had failed.
To this day we run/distance ourselves from our own (seeming) sense of failure rather than bear the untenable pain and suffering of counting all our efforts and activities as for nothing. I have been struggling with my own sense of failure during the past week or so as well.
My identity is bound up in my ‘work’. My sense of self and self-worth is bound up in not just what I do, but other’s reactions to it. It’s easy to say you don’t care what others think. I think that can only be true if you live on an island. For women especially, we worry the one negative reaction or comment, to the exclusion of all the positive that should outweigh or at least put these worrisome responses in perspective. And it doesn’t really help when you are hosting a pity party to tell yourself ‘you learn from your mistakes and/or failures’. There are days I want out of the school of life.
As Good Friday approaches I get a good reality check. I have a place to put this down. At the foot of a cross. St. Paul is clear about what happens next.
Even having acknowledged this myself I know that if we can but stay with the sense of the death of our dreams, ambitions, callings, some small grace begins to push its way through, course its way into our sense of being, up through the softened ground of loose dirt that we feel covered in, a rhizome rising, the ever-hidden sacred substance, where a green shoot of renewal begins to emerge, fertilized by a sense of failure.
So perhaps when our lives feel like so much manure, we can throw our sense of failure out on the thawed dirt of spring and wait to see what comes up, what blooms there. Let failure empower/fertilize the ground where your dreams seem to have sidled away with the worms.
Even now ‘failure’ I think allows God to take mastery of our mission, our self meaning, and ‘redeem’ it, turn it into his purpose, in order to re-orient our understanding in the wake of Jesus’ life and thereby our own.
Job already had the conversation, so we don’t have to have that conversation again. Jesus died on the cross, his mission also a seeming failure. So much so we hear him cry out with the words signifying complete abandonment by God. Like three days in a tomb, we just have to wait, listen, believe when belief doesn’t feel possible, until we hear God say I got this. And know that he does.