Failure

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

Sometimes I spend an evening, generally while my husband unwinds with a video game, wandering around Pinterest. I enjoy looking for new recipes to try, new cleaning tricks, fashion inspiration, decorating inspiration, writing inspiration, things that make me laugh, things that creep my out, or geeky things centered around my own particular fandoms. As I scroll through pins, I’m sometimes amazed at the level of narcissism and the lack of mercy shown to other sinners gathered around us. You see pins about rejecting the negative people in your life. You see pins about getting rid of those people who don’t just think you’re the greatest. Heaven forbid they don’t think your life dream is amazing. Heaven forbid they hurt you. Well you know what to do right? Throw those people away. You don’t need that kind of grief in your life.

Really good friends are perfect. They are perfectly loyal. They are perfectly focused on you. They are perfectly supportive of everything in your life, both good and ill. Good friends, and good Christians never fail.

Do you ever scroll past these types of quotes and feel like a failure? Do you every feel like you must just be a horrible person for honestly telling someone that while their dream is nice, they need to count the cost of the choices they’re making. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try something things just don’t go right? Do you ever remember with horrible guilt the time you were that person who wasn’t loyal and lost a friend because of it? Do you ever remember with terrible pain the time you were failed by a friend and were broken by it?

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I'm not god. I'm a failed and failing human being.

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I’m not god. I’m a failed and failing human being.

Guess what?

You are a failure.

You will fail and the people around you are going to fail.

You’re going to miss someone, look back later, see how they slipped out of your life, and you’re going to regret it. You’re going to say something about someone and regret it. You’ll believe the worst about someone only to realize you misunderstood them. You will be disappointed. You will have regrets. You will disappoint others and have regrets.

You will fail and you will be failed.

Some of us are overcome with sadness when we see all the ways we’ve failed, especially if we admire and appreciate loyalty and friendship. The weight of disloyalty and failure can almost break us.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn't anyone notice how much pain I'm in. Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice anyone elses pain.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn’t anyone notice how much pain I’m in? Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice the  pain of others.

Where do we find comfort?

1) Find comfort in the truth and not fiction. We all fail. We all sin. We are all sinners. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord that He saves sinners. If He didn’t I’d be lost. Knowing we all fail gives me peace because God saves sinners. I’m only perfect in Christ and the same goes for you. We are only faithful by grace. Knowing that gives us the strength we all need to forgive those who have failed us. It gives us the strength to resist being paralyzed by fear of failure. Grace! Grace!

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

2) Find comfort in He who is faithful. God is faithful. Look at the parable of in Luke 11/5-13. We are all the annoyed neighbor who is already tucked in bed. God is never tucked in bed. He is never annoyed. He is holy. He watches for the down trodden, the broken, the least of the least. Cry out to Him with your needs and fears. Don’t put your faith in your fellow-man, that is far too big a burden for any of us to bear. We aren’t God. We are weak. We have to sleep and eat just like you do. God doesn’t. God isn’t bound by the time, space, and corporeal weaknesses we are tied to. God is faithful. (2 Tim. 2/13)

Knowing we are failures isn’t a license to fail as much as we want, but a reminder that we are all sinners and only God is faithful. I can turn to my fellow church members and forgive and be forgiven. I can ignore the pins of people who hope in this life, build little gods of others, and try to find their satisfaction in a broken world. Better yet, I can pray for them. My sins are covered by Christ. He is my perfection. Remove that burden from your heart and from the hearts of those around you. Realize you are going to be hurt and you’re going to hurt others. Instead of finding perfection in fellow sinners, look for it in Christ, forgive, show grace, and help each other along.

Remember Iron sharpens Iron. Does that sound comfortable to you? Sparks are going to fly. Remember the wise man heeds rebuke. That means you have to endure and apply the rebuke of others. Remember that we are called to be a body in our church and not everyone is going to get to be the eyes and ears, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of removing people who suck from your life–people!–maybe look beyond the end of your own nose to serve them instead.

Hope in this life isn’t found in being unbroken. Hope in this life is found only in the Triune God.

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God!

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God! Here, oh soul, you may take your rest.

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken-m_1802886f“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.” – Laura Hillenbrand

Some books stick with you.  They are taskmasters while you read them, constantly interrupting your thoughts, your day, demanding you set aside everything you must and want to do to read them.  They are dangerous books, not because of their content, but because they become part of your makeup.  They weave their story, borne up on words, into your psyche.  They become a part of you.  If someone wants to know the real you, they must at some point understand these books.

Every story haunts us one way or the other.  Some are gentle hauntings – a general sense of warmth, a remembered character, a soft smile when they’re mentioned – like Christopher Robin, or Bilbo.  Other books rip us apart with their hauntings – a cold sense of horror, characters we wish to forget, a shudder when they’re mentioned – like Manhunter by John Douglas, or Whispers by Dean Koontz.  Some bind us to those around us with their hauntings – a laugh knowing we all know, fans who name their kids after characters, an easy subject to discuss with strangers when they’re mentioned – like Harry Potter.

Taskmaster books go deeper.  They whisper to you when you pass them on the shelf.  They line your mind with both joy and sorrow.  With them comes enlightenment, horror, peace, the world seen through a new light.  These books have lines that become your lines.  These stories become your stories, the ones you take out and share in a hurried whisper with a close friend.  They’re above fan-bases.  Sometimes, often, they’re above becoming movies, though it’s attempted, but something’s lost in the translation between word and film.  These books haunt their readers in all the ways other books attempt to.  They are gentle, ripping, and binding.  These are the kind of books every author wants to pen.

Over the last few years, I’ve come across a small handful of these books out of the hundreds I’ve read:

  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
  • With the Old Breed by EB Sledge
  • The Killing Zone by Frederick Downs Jr.

They demanded to be read over everything else going on in my life.  They stuck with me, stuck in the back of my heart and mind weaving their stories into mine.  Lord of the Rings and Watership Down did the same thing when I first read them.

I came across a new one the other day.  It might prove to be only the gentle haunting, not the ripping and binding ones as well.  I’m not sure yet.  Right now, it feels like one of these great books.  It’s Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This is the story of a mischievous troublemaker, Louis Zamperini, whose older brother encouraged him to take up running to keep him in school and to channel his energy.  He became an Olympic Athlete.  Then WW2 started.  Zamperini’s story takes him literally out of the frying pan and into the fire.  After his plane goes down over the Pacific, he spends over 40 days at sea in a life raft, only to be ‘rescued’ by the Japanese.  Now his real trials began.  He spends several years in POW camps facing starvation and torture.  His family and friends don’t know if he’s alive or dead.  Zamperini remains unbroken through all these trials until he comes home.  Nightmares haunt him.  He drinks.  He destroys his family.  Life seems without hope.  But God.  And that’s all I’m gonna say.  You’re just going to have to read the book!

Unbroken is not a happy story, but it is a joyful story.  It reminded me of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (another haunting, stick-in-your-head story).  Not a happy story, but a rich story full of joy.

I think this story will stick with me because it is a wonderful picture of God’s grace in man’s darkest hour.  I think it will haunt me because I now know how many soldiers died just trying to learn to fly planes, and how harsh life was as a Japanese POW, but even there Christ had his children.  It will inspire me because even in the darkest of these moments, our soldiers and the allied soldiers still fought the war in their own small ways.  It will remain a part of me because so many of these men came home broken, but so many of them came home strong.  It will become part of me because it was such a vivid picture of God pursuing a sinner to the very bitterest end, through shark-infested waters, sadistic prison wardens, and broken souls.  God never let Louis be, not once.

Historically, this book is wonderful just because of the breadth of its scope.  The details are rich, well researched, and vivid.  Laura Hillenbrand is a masterful writer.  I have struggled with how to rate it.  It is fairly clean, but the subject matter is very rough just by its nature.  It would be a great book to have your children read when they study WW2, but I would probably regulate it to High School.  It has a few moments of “adult content” which are minor but still there, and graphic descriptions of the horrors faced by our soldiers.

Unbroken.  When I started this book I had no idea the journey it would take me on.  I had no idea how much I would come to love this man, Louis Zamperini.  I had no idea how vivid the grace of God would be.  Someday, I believe I will meet Mr. Zamperini.  Not here….but in heaven at the feet of Christ.  Maybe I’ll get to tell him how much he encouraged me, at which point I’m sure he’ll say it wasn’t him, but Christ and Christ alone.