Freedom to Fail

photo credit: Andrea Lingle

photo credit: Andrea Lingle

Freedom to Fail:
What Does Missional Mean?, Week 4

by Andrea Lingle

Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.

How often have we read those words of Jesus with a bit of a self-righteous—I would never?

How often have we examined our lives for ways we deny Jesus?

How often have we crowed in accusation, demanding that a betrayal, denial, disappointment be brought to light?

But how often have we wondered if Peter’s failure in the garden was the moment that enabled his ministry after Pentecost?

To be missionally wise, a person must listen deeply to the world, act authentically with his or her neighbors, and be willing to be constantly reflective. Sometimes even well-intentioned efforts will be failures. Sometimes you will listen deeply to your community, design a project, begin the work, and realize, at some point, the energy has gone.

People don’t show up.

The prayer turns to gossip.

You don’t ever light the candle.

The Christian story is a story of failure. Adam and Eve, distrusting God’s love, chose to take matters into their own hands. Abraham, distrusting God’s promise, used a woman and discarded her. Peter, distrusting God’s means, denied his closest friend.

The Holy Spirit must keep pointing us to Jesus, keep filling us with her faith that love wins. She must gift us, call forth from us more courage, integrity, and perseverance than we knew we had. She must heal us of our bigotry, lead us into all truth, turn our failures and mistakes into wisdom. None of us can love as Jesus loves unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And this requires a day by day opening of ourselves to the love of God. It means we have to be born again, born of the Spirit. It means we have to live in a contemplative stance.

To be a contemplative is to show up, pay attention, cooperate with God, and release the outcome. It is an orientation that is both inward and outward, one that is both cause and result of an increasing integration and wholeness within.

Failure feels terrible—often a person’s greatest fear.

But what is on the other side of failure? For Peter it was reconciliation. On a beach over grilled fish, Jesus taught Peter, and generations of gospel readers, that love is not broken by failure.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

Do you love me? Feed my sheep.

And I ask you, do you love? Then go out, willing to fail, and be fully where you are so that you can see the hunger, terror, nakedness, and peril that is all around you.

Elaine A Heath and Larry Duggins, Missional. Monastic. Mainline. (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014)

Scripture references: John 18 and 21

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • How have you failed?

  • What can you do with your failure?

  • How does the contemplative stance inform your experience of failure?

Our Voices:
We asked what Missional meant to you. If you would like to share your definition of Missional, please take our survey. Here is one respondent's answer.

Missional is all about BE-ing; being in relationship to all others, being engaged with wherever God is at work, being Christ-like in our actions and interactions, being contemplative, being one who gives added value, and all within the context of our community.