photo credit: Ryan Klinck

photo credit: Ryan Klinck

Freedom from Failure:
The Active Presence of the Holy Spirit, Week 8

by Adam White

Nobody likes to fail.

Even just reflecting on the words “fail” or “failure” bring back memories from school assignments, sports performances, and life moments that still find ways to linger in my mind. You have heard of a cloud of witnesses; I think of this as a cloud of failures. I think we each have our own cloud of failures that arise and follow us around during certain periods of time. This cloud can stay with us for quite a while if we let it hover over us and pour down things like doubt, insecurity, and fear.

However failure is not limited to an anthology of missed opportunities and bad performances. There is freedom in failure, absurd as it may sound. This kind of freedom is birthed in the light of grace that emanates from the Spirit. The Spirit’s grace is able to pierce through and break up our clouds of failures.

God’s Spirit is not restricted to strict paradigms of success or failure. If we approach the Spirit in that way, we will value ourselves by such standards—I am a success in my marriage. I am a failure at work. I succeed at growing spiritually. I have failed God and myself. But, with grace as our divine source of light, we are freed from limited and restrictive paradigms.

Here failures need not define the value of our work, relationships, or faith. Rather, we are left open to explore with one another the opportunities before us as we discern and evaluate prayerfully where God’s Spirit is leading us.

Let us remember that even St. Paul and his followers learned through trial and error as they pioneered their missional work.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them. Passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas instead. A vision of a man from Macedonia came to Paul during the night. He stood urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” Immediately after he saw the vision, we prepared to leave for the province of Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them (Acts 16: 6– 10, CEB).

Like Paul, may we follow the Holy Spirit, going through doors that open, giving thanks when doors close, learning from our failures, and finding ways to be good news no matter what! [1]

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

What is in your cloud of failures that you may be wrestling with, and how is God’s Spirit working within that space?

Where might the Spirit’s freedom be moving you to explore new paths or experiences?


[1] Slightly adapted from Elaine A. Heath and J. Larry DugginsMissional. Monastic. Mainline, (Portland, OR: Cascade 2014).