Discerning the Guise Of Failure

LIMITATION AND SURREALISM

There is a short-sighted platitude: “You can do anything you set your mind to.” The idea professes that with enough focus, energy, passion, and time, we can put our mind to work and accomplish wonders. In the farthest stretches of the mind, however, is a guise: Limitation. For some people, limitation is catastrophic and final—this perspective claims there is no way around to the other side. For other people however, limitation is an invitation to try harder, to use more muscle, creativity, and brute tenacity to supplement their action.

There comes a place where the boundary of limitation, dividing what is humanly realistic from that which is idyllically surreal, will cross; the latter of course being the umbrella hospitalizing several aspects of pride, separate from the body of our spirit. When we cross the line and believe in what is surreal, our belief in the surreal becomes the ultimatum between what is possible and what is preferred. When we stay behind the line, sometimes we get trapped in the opposite belief that the line itself exists as a means to truncate our potential by professing our worthlessness. This “staying behind the line in fear of worthlessness” is the defining air of failure.

What I’d like to do in this article is take a closer look at how our relationship with Jesus can eliminate the mirage of failure as a culmination of our mistakes, and instead come to understand failure is merely the choice of inaction. In this way, I hope that by reading this, we can move forward confident of success, surrendering anything in our lives that doesn’t lead us to the purpose we are intrinsically called into through Christ.

FAILURE IS A GUISE

If failure is the choice of inaction, then inaction is the malady of laziness and insanity, repeating the same inaction in the hopes that a positive change will occur. In the world we live in today, one of the most grave maladies is the absent-mindedness in believing life is merely an amalgam of perception-based sensory input (i.e., Empiricism), rather than a meaningful imbrication of experiences leading us to the One who gave us the blessing of such a journey. When we believe life is only a formulaic equation expressed in chemicals, hormones, molecules, and matter, we have already failed ourselves not only with disappointment, but self-defeat. We undermine the notion of purpose by denying ourselves our chance to desire fulfillment. When this happens, we feel the seed of hopelessness growing inside, swelling up into the questioning of our very existence. 

LIVING IN THE MIRAGE OF HOPELESSNESS

One of the most common facial expressions I recognize in the city of Los Angeles is nonchalance—the desultory attitude of someone who has “been there, done that, and given up all hope.” This attitude is extremely uninspiring. I realize some people just need a small nudge back into the light of hope and they’re good to go, but there are so many others who are cantankerously stubborn and convinced that their lives are permanently doomed. Failure, however, does not find us; failure merely illuminates where we are so we can recognize the wall blocking our path. The hard part—ironically—is not recognizing that there is in fact a wall—the hard part is recognizing that the wall is not a dead end, but a detour.

We can be so busy trying to figure out (or complain about) why what is holding us in place is even there that we don’t search for a way around or through. When people live in this “trapped” space that professes “life is over” for long stretches of time, gradually that wall becomes their room, their microcosm, their mentality—rather than the mere recognition that there is something to be overcome.

ASSOCIATING OUR IDENTITY WITH THE WORLD

For many people, failure is the absence of achieving a life aspiration. For example, some people want a house, a wife/husband, a child/children, a nice job and an affordable living. To lack of one or two of these is disappointing, but to not even achieve any at all may translate as catastrophic. For these instances, our identity is centered on our life aspirations. The problem with this is how our aspirations fluctuate and change according to our lives, and therefore are undependable. Basically, if the very thing our identity is based on is vacillates and wavers, then our identity is subject to the threat of fallibility, mistaking what we thought would be an auspicious future for fragile dreams.

This truth should be a strong indicator that we cannot depend on our life goals or aspirations to fill the role of our identity or purpose. If we live to be married, for instance, we raise our expectation of marriage to an unrealistically high degree (surrealism), placing its significance in a flamboyantly harmful position and starving its refreshingly natural state with vacuity. If we live for a dream home, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the inevitable dilapidation to occur—no matter how well it is renovated. Centering our existence on children would bear its own weight as well because, without question, regardless of proper child-rearing, raising a child has its disappointments and fallouts as well. In other words, absolutely nothing in this world succeeds to be permanently perfect. What then can we place the weight of our hopes in? What can satisfy our inevitable, intrinsic, meaningful urge for purpose while not falling short in the long run?

IDENTIFYING WITH FAITH

At first, when I found Jesus, being a Christian meant “get it right”—hit or miss; succeed or fail. I was trying to understand what living a Christian life looked like. For a couple of years, it was all about performance. It took me years to realize that I had received the Good News, but was still trying to do with my choices what Jesus had already done on the cross: Purge my own sinfulness rather than hand it over to God (surrender).

Years later (about 3 years ago now), I finally starting understanding, through the loving wisdom of friends, the Bible, and spiritual leaders in my church—that performance isn’t the point. When we identify with Jesus, I learned, we actually desire for Him to permeate who we are. That means our relationship with Jesus becomes such a high priority, such a first instinct, that our desires begin naturally molding around what He is calling us into. For me, that has been expressed through serving others, writing about Him on this blog, testifying to His goodness, and learning to be as Christ-like as possible through my words and actions. While performance isn’t key and is not the point, how we live our lives is a direct reflection of what’s in our hearts, and I want everyone to know that Jesus is good no matter what.

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING JESUS CALLS YOU TO DO”

What strikes me is how Jesus constantly reminds me that I’m not alone, and that it’s not about what I do or don’t do, but about what He already did. To associate with Jesus means, in other words, I could never “fail.” This truth points to how important my need is to lean on His love and strength (The Bible, community, prayer, supplication, surrender, obedience, and placing His relationship to me above all else) rather than my own. In doing this, I don’t even have to think about performance, I just think about Him. It’s not “You can do anything you set your mind to,” it’s “You can do anything Jesus calls you to do.”

DISCERNMENT AND SURRENDER

Listening to what Jesus says is not the same as listening to people speak from themselves. His voice lovingly and uniquely speaks through circumstances, music, nature, yes–other people, and even directly into our heart through sensations (of the Holy Spirit) or images. I have experienced each of these, and all are quite empowering—particularly the latter three (people, sensations, and images). I have many Christian friends who have also discerned these spiritual inputs from Jesus in their spiritual walk. In order to pass from the worldly view of failure into the Heavenly view of success, we must practice spiritual discernment, which requires the surrendering of what we have received from the world and releasing it to God. What does that look like? Humility, trust, and obedience. Let me explain.

TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR EXISTENCE

Clinging to the world is the mental action of claiming the doctrines of this world to be more trustworthy than the Creator of this cosmos. Further, to put the notion of trusting God into perspective, consider the creation of the cosmos and all of its refinements. If the degree of the cosmological constituents (i.e. Mass Density of the Universe, Ratio of Electromagnetic Force, etc.) holding the universe together was off by 10 to the 120th power, our life would cease to exist. Also, the cosmos is continually expanding, which inevitably means “something” is pushing on the matter of the universe. That said, if the universe is continually expanding AND being contained to 10 to the 120th degree so that life does not implode or explode, the Creator of our universe must be trustworthy, or we would literally die.

Understanding this, if we trust the secular doctrines of the world (i.e., Empiricism, science over faith, etc.) over the promising Biblical love of the Creator who holds our existence safely in His hands, I think we’ve touched upon a new problem than that of our fear of failure. Ultimately, we don’t need this world, we need God. Humility teaches this, trust commits to it, and finally obedience acknowledges and implements the commitment. In claiming this, we surrender our desires to embrace those of the One who gives us life, love, mercy, and breath—every second of every day.

WE CANNOT FAIL

Hear me readers, we cannot fail in Christ. We “fail” only when we inevitably fall short of our own desires, or when our desires inevitably fall short of our expectations. But this happens because when we try to override our natural desire for meaningful purpose with attempts at gaining transient pleasure, our motives do not complement our intrinsic desires (which complement our movement towards purpose), and as a result, we feel the pain or loss (of purpose/meaning) spiritually, whether or not we believe in Jesus as Lord.

While it is true not all unbelievers are materialists, it is also true how disbelief forces a person to seek meaning/purpose in places where the discovered meaning/purpose is short-lived; rooted in that which is not eternal or fulfilling. Beyond God and the eternality of the soul, wherever we search for meaning, connection, and purpose—we won’t ever find it. When we find our purpose rooted in the soul itself, our intention remains selfish because the motive sources back to us. For the believer, rooted in Christ, the motivation never ceases because His love is continually ongoing, and our means of attaining our goals are unlimited because we are rooted in a purpose created through the very Word which spawned the birth of eternity (John 1:1-5), far beyond the science and short-sighted maladies of this world.

Simply put, if we cannot fail because of Christ, we can only succeed through Him. Our gratitude and humility for this truth are forever His. 

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Soaring with Him Ministries

The Origins Of Identity: Understanding Loyalty

Before sentience and pleasure, and before dissension or agreement, there is the denudation of offense and the understanding of character. Simply put, there is identity. Let me explain.

The reason why who we are behind closed doors is so important is because what we do and what we think while no one is watching defines the viability of our loyalty. And why is loyalty so important? A person’s loyalty explains a great deal; such as why a person cares to please, entertain, or to serve “Bob” and not “Sam”. Having a reason for this requires the person being served to be well worth such a commitment. If behind closed doors we cheat on the person whom we claim loyalty to, our choice to renege speaks degradingly low of the person we claim loyalty towards, as well as ourselves. This cheapness of character labels the cheater a hypocrite and liar. Question is, what gives these labels their power? Let’s dig deeper. 

Power derives of respect, admiration, and even appreciation. Therefore our disloyalty would cloud the picture of what we claim to be admirable and respectable, and in turn, poisoning the picture others have of our ability to choose wisely and with careful consideration who or what we are loyal to. To society, disloyalty may represent a shortcoming, a foible, a flaw—the flaw of our ineptitude, our immaturity as a human being, and the inability to understand the significance of the power of loyalty in the eyes of a society seeking to trust an individual’s skill in choosing who to give loyalty to. 

Admiration for and the appreciation of money, may, for example, appear normal to a society desperate to pay its bills and evade financial burdens. But seeking money above all else is idolatry. Even writing that may strike a chord with some readers because those words may appear to claim that the desire for money is automatically a bad thing. But that isn’t what I’m saying, nor is that my point. What I am saying is that the desire for money is normal and appropriate when it is controlled. By controlled I mean there is a goal involved with the attaining of money. In other words, money doesn’t become the goal, money is simply a part of the plan, but not the reward itself. For example, the goal could be to buy a car, and money is needed to buy a car. In this instance, money isn’t the goal, the car is. Perhaps for you, a house is the goal. Once again, money is required, but it is not the goal. See the difference? What this point illustrates is that when people do what they do in order to get more money just to get more money, money is their goal; their idol. 

There are many things in this world people can get attached to, and without these things, they either forget who they are, or never came to truly know themselves to begin with. The question then becomes: Why is this important? 

When we become obsessive and idolatrous over Earthly things, we lose sight of our purpose—if we were ever made aware of something as meaningful as purpose to begin with. For many people, purpose is not a theme or concept that was ever invited into their mind or spirit; they learned their habits only because they were never fulfilled with anything more significant in their life. Their role models and peers were not so ambitious as to understand the significance of encouraging them to discover their unique purpose, nor believing in one of their own. When we learn from people without passion in life, purpose is less than a consideration, and without purpose, who are we? Now we’re getting somewhere.

All of our habits (habits like wanting money just for the sake of having more, like I mentioned above), once formed, can become a person’s definition, and certainly these habits can replace our loyalty to someone or something else. For instance, we would have little or no time for personal relationship with close friends if we were preoccupied with drunkenness, intoxication, under the influence of the psychedelic high of drugs, or unconscious. What we want isn’t to not exist, but to exist fully. Why is any of this important? How does this relate to our identity? How do we know what our identity is?

When we strongly consider our loyalty towards people and the fear we have of being caught (for those who don’t trust themselves), the question of our identity behind closed doors must finish by asking: Whose approval are we replacing with society’s?

We prove it to ourselves how we seek the approval of others if we are afraid of being caught—otherwise there would be nothing to worry about “being caught” with. Loyalty couldn’t retain any power if the approval of people weren’t the bricks in the wall. But in this flow of thoughts, we have sidestepped where loyalty’s origins begin. Truly, we haven’t yet perused the most intricate etching of this concept. The most essential etching of them all is how we put all of this energy and commitment, loyalty and admiration into the world, its things, but we many times forget that before any of us makes the first decision to try a drug, an alcoholic drink (with the intention to get drunk), to lose our virginity, or to allow our body to become invaded with foreign toxins—we have our identity given to us by God. Sometimes this truth causes dissension and provokes people to back away because life appears easier without what seems to be the complication of faith. However, this identity given to us is why morality stings when we make the choice we sense is wrong. This is what begs us to want a friend around when we reach for that bottle of liquor—we want the intimacy (even if the intimacy we want is distorted by the involvement of substance abuse) but we are unaware of how loved we are before we even picked up the bottle. We are loved before we inhale the toxins. We don’t realize we’re desperate for an intimacy beyond sharing toxins and transient, meaningless pleasures with others. The truth is that we take on all these habits to escape because we are unaware of—or placing doubt in—the reality of God. When we are unaware of God, we replace His missing piece with as many pieces as we can find to fit into the size of His void.

What does that tell us about how many habits we feel the need to pick up in order to replace God? 

When we discover smoking, drinking, coitus, or even video games, we find all these things to fill our souls with: Exposure to drug abuse, the flooding rush of dopamine through sex, the entertainment of video games and the fuzzy sensations of drunkenness. The sad truth is that so many people are unaware that this is the process we fall prey to. We pledge our allegiance—that is, our loyalty, which innately belongs to relationship with God the Father through Jesus His son—to these ephemeral experiences because what only God can do, so many countless transient Earthly pleasures must try over and over again, repetitively, to replace. Even with such adamant consistency, these experiences aren’t satisfying: We need them over and over again to remind us (yet they never do so adequately)—otherwise, we’d have our fill. But with God, we pour our desires into Him, we talk to Him, worship Him, read about Him, listen to Him, and desire HIM above all else, and what happens is that all these pointless desires fall away; games may remain fun, but only in small spurts of times; alcohol retains its unique taste for pleasure (even Jesus created barrels of wine! His first miracle—John 2:1-11), but it will not seem worthwhile to become drunk (which is spoken against in the Bible—Galataians 5:21)—and sex becomes special and unique to a marriage relationship blessed under God—not just a promiscuous act of copulation between two emotionally uninvolved strangers seeking anonymous pleasure.

From this article, what I want for you to take away is how loyalty doesn’t start with people, but with God; that God is good, and that all of our experiences from this world could never add up to the thrill, excitement, passion, and purpose of relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I tried this for most of my life—my loyalty was misguided. In fact, for most of my life, I denied Him His existence entirely. Through disbelief, I tried living a life where the only places left to place loyalty were lust, music, and movies (depending on music to influence my character, movie characters to inspire me to be who I am, and lusting after women to keep me impassioned for life) instead of placing all of my loyalty in Jesus as Lord—who is more than capable of doing all three at once! Now I journey after God’s heart to inspire me to be a better man, I declare His will above my own because I trust what He wants is better for me than anything I could never conjure up in my wildest dreams—and I believe patience in His will for me will outweigh every disappointment I’ve ever encountered while trying to search for short-lived pleasures in my past. I’m forever convinced that purpose in Jesus is more fulfilling than any other worldly distraction, and I would love to see others come to understand the difference as well. That is my reason for writing this article and for having a blog at all. I want you to understand how we can find our identity in Christ and discover all that we long for by loving Him above all other things. When we put God first, He lifts us up and blesses us more than we could hope for, and the experience of this lifestyle is more satisfying than you could imagine unless you embrace it for yourself. 

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