I Am A Failure

I am a failure. 

How do you feel when you read those words? Does a part of you revolt, wanting to immediately respond by offering encouragement, telling me how wrong I am, and righting the obvious wrong in the sentence? Or, does a part of you cringe in recognition? Do you see in those words your assessment of yourself? 

Either way, I have to tell you this: it is true. I am a failure. So are you. 

You may wonder why I am bringing this up. Let me tell you. I am bringing it up because I believe that unless you respond to this statement correctly you have misunderstood the grace of God. 

According to Paul we have, in Jesus Christ, redemption and forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace (Ephesians 1:7). It has long been the testimony of Christians that God's grace is nothing short of amazing. We sing exactly that; Amazing Grace. God loved us into being, refused to abandon us when we abandoned Him, made a way for us to not only be forgiven but to have Life, eternal life, today and forevermore. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is both the promise of an inheritance and present help now. Grace, says Thomas Oden, "is an overarching term for all of God's gifts to humanity, all the blessings of salvation, all events through which are manifested God's own self-giving. grace is a divine attribute revealing the heart of the one God, the premise of all spiritual blessing." Grace is part of God's very nature, it is his self-giving for us, and thus it is the gift none which greater than can be thought or recieved. 

We ought to respond to these great and marvelous gifts in awe and thanksgiving, on our knees. Somehow, though, we don't. 

There are two more common misunderstandings which prevent this proper response, and they are both embedded in how we respond to the statement "I am a failure."

For many of us, we have grown up in, and absorbed, a culture which teaches us to never, under any circumstances, utter that devastating three word phrase. We have been conditioned in the proper practices of self-image and self-esteem. We have learned that the key is to quickly forget our failures and hold tight to our successes and thus maintain a state of mind we call happiness. 

From this position, we approach grace as those who 'just need a little help.' We are forced by life, and the fact that we are a failure no matter how much we hide it, to admit that we cannot make it on our own; we need help. But not too much. After all, we are mostly good people. Mostly successful. Mostly right. Mostly loving. Of course we are not perfect; far be it from us to be prideful. So, we turn to grace as that final push, that final nudge over the top. And it is no wonder that we do not, then, fall to our knees in awe at the grace of a God who would die for us

What we, in this position, have failed to grasp, perhaps fatally so, is the depth and truth of sin. We are failures, in every way, and we are not mostly good or anything of the sort. We are, in fact, hopeless apart from God. Until we come to this realization we will never appreciate grace as we should. 

Thus stands the first misunderstanding. 

For many others of us, we have grown up in, and absorbed, a culture which preaches success and self-image, but we are not as practiced at the pattern of self-deception. Others may not see it, but we do. We see the darkness in our soul. We see the besetting sin, the habit we just can't break, the fifteen-hundredth time that we have, yet again, failed. And whether anyone else knows it, we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we are failures. We understand that we are hopeless. 

What we misunderstand is that we are hopeless apart from God

What we, in this position, have failed to grasp is the depth and truth of grace. We are, indeed, failures in every way, but that is exactly why God has shown us the extravagance of His love and grace. There is no pit too deep, no cave too dark, and no sin too heinous, such that God is not able to pull us up and free us. 

Thus stands the second misunderstanding. 

From a Christian point of view, we are not meant to have good self-esteem. We are meant to have God-esteem. We are meant to know precisely how bad we are and yet to turn to the grace of God and rest in it. To find our identity and our worth and our image in Jesus Christ. Not by hiding the bad and focusing on the good, nor by wallowing the darkness, but by stepping out of the darkness and into the light of God. 

Though our culture rails against and fights, tooth and nail, the traps which lead to the second misunderstanding, that of feeling hopeless and despairing, it is this misunderstanding which is easier to correct. This person needs to hear and know and come to trust and believe in the grace of God. The news they need to grasp is wholly and entirely GOOD news. The person in the grip of the first misunderstanding, however, needs to be torn down, humbled, and made to see a painful truth. The news is still good, but first it is painful. 

Why, then, if we must make a mistake, do we put so much work into building people into the first mistake? Personally, I think we have indeed forgotten the fallen nature of man. We have labeled middle-morality life, or middling common denominator life, as the norm and so any and every time our sin comes to the fore we must label it no longer as sin but as sickness. It becomes a thing which requires therapy and recovery, not a condition which requires repentance and salvation. 

As for us, whether we find ourselves in the grip of a false pride which sees no need for the amazing grace of Jesus, or in the grip of a false despair which sees no hope in the amazing grace of Jesus, I urge that we throw ourselves upon that amazing grace, as only in Jesus Christ, through the grace He has given us, can we be victors and more than conquerors instead of failures. 


Anonymous said...

This was very helpful, thank you

Andrew said...

Your welcome; I'm glad it was so :)