failing well

Just because you fail does not mean you are a failure.

Seth Godin preaches this mantra.  I do not know why I only began to grasp that idea after hearing it from him when the Scripture preaches the same thing.  In Christ we can begin again.  We can fail and try again.

I have lived most of my life up until recently consciously or subconsciously feeling like a failure because I failed at some point.  I’m changing that.

I have failed many times.  I am divorced, something I never dreamed would happen.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I surely took the long route to learning some things, but God takes me right where I am and those failures have no power over me.

In college I entered the piano concerto competition twice at the University of Florida and once at the state MTNA level and lost all three times.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I played some fabulous music and learned a lot about myself in the process.

Several times I have raised my voice at my two wonderful boys.  Does that make me a failure?  No.  I am human and I do not always manage my frustrations well.

The beauty of the Gospel is that I am allowed to learn by failing, not just by succeeding.  In fact, in some weird twist of reality, I find that I learn more from my mistakes than from my successes.

If you struggle with accepting yourself and your failures, read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.

From a business standpoint I recommend anything by Seth Godin.  He will help you understand the value of failure in the practical things of life.

How do deal with failure?

Life: the Greatest Editor

Life has a way of editing your writing.  Case in point.  Two years ago I read the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (a must read about the radical grace of God, written by a recovering alcoholic and former priest) and was moved to write a song based on how the message of the Gospel of grace really sunk in with me.  I was impressed with the way God releases us from our humanity because of his grace when we ask him for forgiveness, regardless of what we are asking forgiveness for.  Manning’s example of outrageous grace is a beautiful one.

The lyrics of “Grace” then showed a stark depravity against the unflinching and progressing grace of God.  I also used Desert Song by Brooke Fraser and Hillsong United as a model because I am thoroughly impressed by the song, both musically and technically.  Here are the lyrics:

Broken we come before you now
Humbled our hearts before you bow in worship
Here in your presence stained with sin
dead and decaying deep within our hearts we worship

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
and nothing I can do can set me free

Jesus, your love is life-defying
challenging all we know is right and just
Taking the cross to greater heights
passing the life lived pure and right to us
you overwhelm us

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
and nothing I can do can set me free

When I am speechless, you speak your Word
When I am dying, you work your Strength
When I am failing you complete the task set out for me
You set us free, so free

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
and nothing I can do can set me free

Restored we claim no inner gift
Healed we seek to share the grace you give
knowing there’s no greater praise
than a life redeemed by faith in you
we believe you

Now, two years later, my perspective has changed.  I am still confident in the radical grace of God and thoroughly dependent on it because of all the mistakes I make and sins I commit on a daily basis, although I am making progress, again by God’s grace.  That said, I look at the first verse and I find it not quite theologically sound.

Before Christ we stood before God stained by sing, dead and decaying deep within.   We could not worship because we had not been transformed.  We could not be viewed another way because we were not under the mercy and saving grace of God.  Because, however, we have received Christ and asked him for his grace and mercy in our lives, God no longer views us that way.  yes, we sin, but because of Christ’s blood he sees us as complete and whole and beautiful.  We are alive and growing, not dead and decaying.  As the old hymn says, “The Lord has promised good to me; his Word my hope secures.  He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.”  We cling to this promise that God remembers our sin no more and shows us mercy by giving us grace in our most dire times of need.

My theology has changed, or perhaps my writing has caught up to my theology.  Time has allowed me to look back at these lyrics and say, “No, that’s wrong.  There is no hope in the original lyric.”

I have also noticed that my ending stanza is stilted and not in line with the rest of the song, so I am scratching that stanza and replacing it with a reprise of the first half of the first verse, still ending on the “V” chord.  Here are the lyrics now, edited to reflect these changes.  I am also going the change the title to either “Your Grace” or “Broken.”

Broken we come before you know
Humbled our hearts before you bow in worship
Here in your presence free from sin
holding your promise deep within our hearts we worship

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Jesus, you have come and set me free

Jesus, your love is life-defying
challenging all we know is right and just
Taking the cross to greater heights
giving the life lived pure and right to us
you overwhelm us

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Jesus, you have come and set me free

When I am speechless, you speak your Word
When I am dying, you work your Strength
When I am failing you complete the task set out for me
You set us free, so free

Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Your grace covers me
Jesus, you have come and set me free

Broken we come before you know
Humbled our hearts before you bow in worship

How are you allowing your life to edit your writing?