Love Does: Intentional Failures

11 07 2012

My reflections from the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff.

This thought comes from the fourth chapter called “The Reach” where Goff describes a job he failed at and was fired from, concluding, “I don’t know how I could have messed up any worse, to be honest. Yet on the other hand, I had a story for the ages, a story I could someday tell my kids when they thought they had made a big mistake” (28).

I smiled when I read this because the thing I have always said in the moment when something is strange/interesting/inconvenient/adventurous is, “This is going to make a great story!” This has completely backfired on me because now, when my kids are asking to do something crazy they say, “Mom, you know this is going to make a great story,” and they have me every time.

Failures do make great stories and it is Goff’s reflection in this chapter that got me thinking:

“The thing I love about God is He intentionally guides people into failure. He made us to be born as little kids who can’t walk or talk or even use a bathroom correctly. We have to be taught everything. All that learning takes time, and He made us so we are dependant on Him, our parents, and each other. The whole thing is designed so we try again and again until we finally get it right. And the whole time He is endlessly patient” (29).

It is true, when you think of it; we have to be taught absolutely everything. From the day we take our first breath, we are complete failures! And then, one try after another, we pick up the simplest skills and then add on to these so that after a while, some people think they are experts, or should be experts.

When I look back on my life, I have at times been super hard on myself, or painfully embarrassed about mistakes. I have eased up now that I am in my 40s but I regret not grinning more about my failures and letting them be what they are: teachers.

It is hard to think of God as being OK with my failures when He has such high hopes for me, that I can be wise and walk away from sin and resist the devil and think on what is good and right and true. How can He be so comfortable with clumsy me, entrusting me with His mission? How can He hand me tools to build His kingdom when I have such a strong leaning towards being a moron?

Reflecting on one’s erratic journey helps me to think about success and failure differently. So what if I learn to feed myself but don’t feed anyone else. So what if I learn how to talk if my words make no difference in the long run. So what if I get off all fours and learn to walk if my journey takes me nowhere.

Do I picture God as endlessly patient as I am learning this? Probably not. In being hard on myself, I am hard on Him too, assuming He occasionally rolls His eyes at me or leaves the room awhile because I am such a disappointment. I know in my head this isn’t true, but in my experience with people who have had high expectations of me, it is hard not to think of God as being like them. Yet when Jesus’ disciples failed, He called them His beloved.

Failures, in God’s view are meant to be like the bumpers in a pinball machine; we should be springing off of them, headed for the win. It is in our failures that we find what really matters and who makes it matter:

“God doesn’t want failure to shut us down. God didn’t make it a three-strikes-and- you’re-out sort  of thing. It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so we can swing for the fences again. And all of this without keeping a meticulous record of our screw-ups” (29).

While we were yet failures, He died for us. When we failed at keeping our life together, he gave us a new one. When we failed at being powerful, He filled us with His power. When we like sheep failed at finding our way, He Shepherded us to safety.

This is a love that “does” – showing us how to succeed at things that matter, which, I am pleased to say, makes for a great story.

— Teresa Klassen




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