By: Dr. Rob Helton
Learning to walk is no small feat (no pun intended). Think about it. A human being transitions from all fours to just two, from relative safety to present danger. The danger, of course, is falling… repeatedly. Ironically, it is the key step (again with the unintentional puns) in the process. It is a process that requires purposeful, recurring failure.
Watch a baby as she learns to walk. At some point she stands. She enters into the tension between safety and mobility. She stands without the benefit of certainty. She’s not sure she can do it and, in fact, she can’t. She falls. She fails. And then she does it again… and again… and again. She is, by definition, a failure. And she is happy! Not only has she not yet learned to walk, she hasn’t learned that failure is a bad thing!
On top of that, her parents encourage her to fail again. Even though she can’t walk, even when she realizes (especially when she realizes) she can’t walk, they encourage her to do it again anyway. They are literally setting (standing) her up to fail… again… and again.
What kind of parents would do that? The answer, of course, is good parents. Good parents do precisely that!
Is God a good parent? I wonder if it would be okay to think about Christian discipleship the way we think about learning to walk. Could we not describe learning to follow Jesus as purposeful, recurring failure?
You may recall the story about how an early follower of Jesus named Peter requested permission to walk on the water, which Jesus immediately granted. Peter got out of the boat and stood on the water, then he walked, then he failed… he sank! What was Peter (and for that matter Jesus) thinking! And Peter would fail again…and again. But despite his recurring failures (and maybe because of his recurring failures) Peter turned out okay.
We preacher types seem to be less comfortable with failure than God is. I’m not saying that sin (mine or yours) is a good thing, it’s not. What I am saying is that the only people who never fall are the ones who never learn to walk. I’m saying that failure avoidance is failure already! I’m saying that failure is a good thing because it is, ironically, essential to success!
That new thing you feel God actually wants you to do…do it! Going back to school, a career change, a new hobby, a new ministry… get up on your two feet and walk! Will you fall? Absolutely! Will you fail? Most assuredly! Should you do it anyway? Definitely!