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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Shared at: Grace and Truth

Soaring with Him Ministries

Intimacy We Were Created For

Hearing about Jesus as Lord as an unbeliever can feel like whiplash on the brain. The information is so powerful at first that it’s almost numbing. But gradually the words fall into place, one word of epoch-making truth after another. Eventually, the process of knowing Jesus becomes a goal; we read the Word to learn about Jesus, we pray to Jesus at church and worship Him, and all of that is great. But it’s not enough.

See, I want more. 

Understanding the Jesus of the gospels is mesmerizing. The innumerability of the lessons of wisdom from Christ is inimitable. But Jesus didn’t come to preach; He came to bring salvation through transformation (spiritual rebirth). That’s why Jesus’s words pummeled through people’s cultural and religious ossifications and shined light on the abstruse. His very disciples could barely keep up with Him until after His resurrection because only then did many of His words become fulfilled prophesies. Like His disciples, we are still constantly perusing the Word, trying to understand and apply every ounce of pure wisdom we can explicate. But God didn’t come in the flesh of Jesus so that we could read books and nod our heads. He came for relationshipDoes anyone know what that means?

After 22 years of misunderstanding faith, what’s come to hit me harder than simply the news that Jesus could in fact be Lord was how He wants to be known intimately by me. What does that mean? To me, that means vulnerability, openness, honesty, authenticity, compassion, empathy, humor, trust—a best friend, you might say; to know someone intimately, you become their best friend. Now, seven years of knowledge can teach anyone something significant. But what I’ve learned is that knowing isn’t enough. Knowledge is intellectual and only utilizes the brain, whereas intimacy digs much deeper than the brain, absorbing and requiring the intricacies of an open heart.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about intimacy, it is that it requires trust. Trusting another person is one thing, but trusting God is a challenge when we consider the magnitude of such a relationship. For instance, human beings do not claim to have created the universe because they didn’t create it—God did. What type of argument can we have about the more contemplative topics such as morality and purpose when we’re arguing with the Creator of these? Furthermore, how can we argue about the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule with the Creator of those? We’re arguing with a carpenter over how to make a wooden chair, the order of operations and the size and—what are we doing? When did our intelligence suddenly take precedence over God’s? Backing up to the point on trust—if we are aware of the ludicrousness of arguing over God’s creation with God, what we can gather is that if we cannot argue the carpentry of creation with the Carpenter Himself, can we not trust that the Source of such a beautiful creation would be trustworthy with that creation?

Here’s the thing: We are the culmination of creation—that is, God saved us for last—meaning, He created nature for humans. Do we question our Earthly dad when he builds us a treehouse so we can climb up and enjoy the gift of an independent room up high in the trees with a beautiful view and solace? Do we question God’s trustworthiness for creating something as tranquil as the sound of waves crashing on the beach, or the view of the sun setting into the ocean far off in the distance? Do we question God’s imagination when He gives us rainbows after a beautiful rainfall? Do we question God’s voice when we hear bird’s chirping or the softness of wind breezing by our ears—or His vision of pulchritude in the colorful patterns of a butterfly’s wings? Are these images of a reality thought up and built by God not mesmerizing and telling of His trustworthiness, and the intimacy He so deeply desires to share with us?

See, the Bible is phenomenal in that its words introduce us to a historical Truth that trumps all other truths: God loves us more than creation, so creation is therefore His gift for us to enjoy and to witness Him through until we see Him again—should we declare Jesus as Lord for His sacrifice in our place on the cross. The Word tells us how we came to be, and it explicitly tells us where God wants us to go. He clearly tells us we are not alone in this journey:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

He reminds us that He is our Rock even when our family isn’t:

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10)

Jesus encourages us with His continual presence:

“–and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Knowing about God tells us how to get started, but experiencing Jesus intimately takes us beyond the Bible. The Bible is our guide, our stepping stone of faith, and the very map for our soul. Our relationship with Jesus extends even beyond this text and into the mysteries and challenges of the moment where Jesus Himself promises to be. Outside the Bible, Jesus wants to spend time with us in worship, prayer, laughter, celebration, times of adversity and loss, and through victory and failure—just like a best friend would. But unlike most people, Jesus never tires of us. He’s never not in the mood to be around us or to hear our voices. He can’t get enough of us. He did, after all, create us. In the very stillness of His love and grace, Jesus prefers us over creation.

That is a picture of true intimacy. Can you be still, quiet with God, with Jesus? Can you let the quiet speak to you?

God gave us the Bible so we would know how we came to be and where He wants us to go. God didn’t provide us with the Bible to learn from during Bible studies so we could reserve intimacy with Him only during those times. The message of the Bible was not meant to be reduced to time only spent behind closed doors or with only a small group of people. The Bible regards all of history—the entire timeline of human race, the events of which extend even into the future; therefore, everyone needs to hear about it, whether they end up accepting its Truth or not. Ultimately, the Bible was not written for us to dismiss intimacy, on the contrary; God wrote the Bible so we could (of its many purposes) learn to build that intimacy with Him in our lives, here, now, today.

In 2017, we exist at a time when our relationship with Jesus will either define us or tear us apart from everyone and everything we know. Our world is coming to a time when what we believe in will separate us from each other, or join us together. Intimacy with God will be the number one way to notice those who spend time listening to His voice, who receive His blessings with thanksgiving, praise, trust, and worship; surrendering Earthly desires to make clear the path for His love to develop their character and spiritual maturity. When we surrender what we have in this life for His sake, He gives us what we need one-hundred fold (Mark 10:29).

To trust in God is to remember that He gave us everything we have because He is good, and because He cares. What He doesn’t give to us is what He knows we don’t need, even if we don’t have the eyes to see it yet. With a God so trustworthy and so intimate, there is no reason to keep God locked in the Bible. There is every reason to share Him, preach Him, talk about Him, invite Him in and embrace His presence. Let Him speak into you, and then look up into your world, recognizing the beauty of His love all around you, and thank Him for every breath in your lungs, for every time someone special tells you they love you, every time you receive an unexpected gift from a friend; every time a person acts out of selflessness, every time there is a rainbow or a rainfall—remember God speaks in so many ways, that to say “I haven’t heard God in a while” only bespeaks the quality and development of our listening skills. Try to develop those and be thankful for the little things, not just the obvious. Be thankful you’re able to swallow without choking, that you can smell the scent of candles, the salt of the ocean, the lilies of a garden or the perfume in a woman’s hair. These are gifts of God! Small as they may appear to be, they add up, and as they do they speak of God’s desire for us to experience His blessings all the time.

Christ is with us, always, if we would turn our faces to see Him and ask Him to mold us into more of the people He wants us to be. Ask Him to help you see the beauty that you have either come to neglect or which you were never aware of—ask Him to open your eyes, open your ears, and pay close attention to the delicacies of the moment around you. God speaks through everything; He also speaks into our heart with His very own voice. He speaks words into our hearts and etches His craving for us into our souls; we are never alone and we are always loved. We are not only known by Him, we are loved deeply, intimately, and eternally. What can you do to help build deeper intimacy with God today? In what areas can you ask for Jesus to speak more to you? In what ways would you ask God to help you see and hear Him act in your life so that you wouldn’t leave Him between the covers of the Bible? God is in you, now. If you can’t hear Him, quiet yourself, and ask Him to speak straight into you.

I’m so excited for you to know our Father God through Jesus! I’m so excited to think of so many people desiring Him beyond only text. He needs to be inside of us. Deep, deep inside where only a best friend could be.

May you be blessed this day!!

Recognize