Daily Devotions

The Gift of Failure

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The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22


When I was in seminary, I had a preaching class that required us to tape our preaching and then have it evaluated by classmates. It was incredibly painful. My sermons were fine for my level of education and experience, so I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself, but it felt like failure rather than part of the growth process.

Popular author, Mark Manson claims, “We can be truly successful only at things we are willing to fail at.” Insecurities keep most of us from reaching our full potential. I am not talking about reaching full economic potential. I am talking about reaching your full Divine-calling potential. God calls us to enormous transformations in our own lives and in the larger society. The path to reaching our full potential isn’t linear. The path is fraught with wrong turns and dead ends. Too many people get frustrated, take the setback personally, and tell themselves that they are not worthy or capable of this dream. Rather than continue, they find a dead end they can live with and settle in.

In settling, we do not give ourselves credit - and worse - we do not give God enough credit. God is powerful and loving enough to work through you and me. We just need to overcome our fear of failure, and learn to see our imperfections as opportunities to learn and grow. When we can learn to risk, fail, succeed and risk again, we are ready to be used at a deeper level by the Holy Spirit.

We don’t try to fail, but when we’ve done our best and something didn’t work, we have the opportunity to learn and try again in a different way. Today, think about the perceived failures in your life, especially the ones that tore at your self-image. How might you have increased your learning and wisdom? Don’t let this reflection hurt your self-image all over again. Realize that you have enough distance now to reflect without too much emotion. As you remember, evaluate and pray. The Holy Spirit will empower you. It will take you to a place beyond failure, giving you wisdom and confidence to reach new heights. That doesn’t sound like failure!

I Learned Nothing from an Old Crocodile

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Aytekin Tank, in his article, “The Power of Doing Nothing at All,” tells the following story:  

The old crocodile was floating at the river’s edge when a younger crocodile swam up next to him, “I’ve heard from many that you’re the fiercest hunter in all of the river bottoms. Please, teach me your ways.” Awoken from a nice, long afternoon nap, the old crocodile glanced at the young crocodile with one of his reptilian eyes, said nothing and then fell asleep atop the water. Feeling frustrated and disrespected, the young crocodile swam off upriver to chase after some catfish, leaving behind a flurry of bubbles. “I’ll show him,” he thought to himself.

Later that day the young crocodile returned to the old crocodile who was still napping and began to brag to him about his successful hunt, “I caught two meaty catfish today. What have you caught? Nothing? Perhaps you’re not so fierce after all.” Unfazed the old crocodile again looked at the young crocodile, said nothing, closed his eyes and continued to float atop the water as tiny minnows munched away lightly at the algae on his underbelly. Again, the young crocodile was angry that he couldn’t get a response from the elder, and he swam off a second time upstream to see what he could hunt.

After a few hours of thrashing about he was able to hunt down a small crane. Smiling, he kept the bird in his jaws and swam back to the old crocodile, adamant about showing him who the true hunter was. As the young crocodile rounded the bend, he saw the elder crocodile still floating in the same spot near the river’s edge. However, something had changed - a large wildebeest was enjoying an afternoon drink just inches near the old crocodile’s head. In one lightning fast movement, the old crocodile bolted out of the water, wrapped his jaws around the great wildebeest and pulled him under the river.

Awestruck the young crocodile swam up with the tiny bird hanging from his mouth and watched as the old crocodile enjoyed his 500 lb. meal. The young crocodile asked him, “Please...tell me...how...how did you do that?” Through mouthful of wildebeest, the old crocodile finally responded, “I did nothing!”

On my vacation, it took me at least two days to calm down and relax. The last day I started gearing up for work again. A week’s vacation really only gave me four days of relaxation. I could learn a lot from this old crocodile. Often, doing nothing is necessary to produce the best results. Today, spend some time in meditative prayer. Force your mind to relax and let God’s Spirit fill your relaxed mind with creativity and rejuvenation. Less effort might just produce the best results.

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