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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