Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Failure . . .

is hardly an upbeat word. Nothing good attends it – it’s depressing, demoralizing, and hard to recommend as an exercise worth embracing.   But Marie-Helene Bertino’s title, Failure As Muse, intrigued me; reading it invigorated me -- making me want to fail just because failure means at least I am trying.

A writer, above all else, has to cultivate a stubborn, impenetrable tenacity that listens to no earthly reason . . . Only when you neutralize the fear of failure can you have some real fun. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter,” Samuel Beckett said, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.” I’ll do you one better than that, Sam. Fail Spectacularly. Fail Bester. Is “bester” a word? No matter. 

So, fear of failure is not a reason for sidelining myself.  Fail I might, lose I do --  At least I was in the game, right?

For several weeks I have been trying to write an honest review of book whose title also intrigued me: Extravagant Grace: God’s Glory Displayed in Our Weakness,  by Barbara R. Duguid.  Marie-Helene Bertino’s piece on failure goaded me into discussing it, for it summed up why Extravagant Grace is both uplifting and convicting.  Christians can’t out-fail God’s plan for our lives, though “losers” we may surely seem to be.

The cup of cold water that refreshed me so was Barbara’s urging the reason for my hope – God is at work, in my doubts, fears and failures. My ups and downs are never a reflection of His feelings to me. They cannot change. (Extravagant Grace, p. 153) She states plainly,  “He is always at work in you, with or without your cooperation or permission, shaping you according to His will and his agenda.” (p. 106)

The conundrums of faith in Christ include: one,  being made a new creature, yet caught up in a wrestling match with my old self, that ain’t over ‘till it’s over. Another is that God is my trainer, encourager, referee and will fight for me when I can’t – or won’t.  I hate wrestling, by the way; so, the comparison of getting down and dirty with the monstrous me my old nature is, repulses me. And frankly, I get exasperated with myself, disappointed in the church and freaked by the world.  I want to quit the ring!

Marie-Helene Bertino urged discouraged writers, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.” And, the author  Barbara Duguid reminds weary Christians that though,   “I will sin [fail to meet God’s mark] no matter what pathway God leads me down . . . but, my confidence and hope is his grace is greater than all my sin.  It is an unshackling from a relentless counting of wrongs, and takes away excuses for not moving into whatever God has decided is next for me.” (p. 199)

 “. . . at this very moment, you are exactly as holy and mature in your faith as God wants you to be. He cannot be disappointed in you or surprised by   you, if he is controlling the entire process of growth from start to finish. ”  (Emphasis added)(p. 48) 

So, “Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better.”

The wonder is an infinite, personal God is weaning us, like a mother weans her child, “ . . . from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves; they feel the truth of our Lord’s words, ‘Without me you can do nothing.’” (P. 61)

 What part of “nothing” don’t I get?

Sovereign Lord is a wide description of a deep concept.   So, too is grace.

  •  “God is not in heaven wondering how we will behave and how we will respond to temptation. He is governing every circumstance for our growth and benefit.” (p. 211) Though [my sin] can shatter [my] peace and joy, it can never separate [me] from God or pluck [me] from his heart or hand.  (p. 213)
  •  None of us are saved by the correctness of our actions, opinions or  conclusions about sanctifying grace – we are saved by grace through faith that Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners. “But there is a day coming  when we all be perfect and complete and in wonderful agreement. Nothing can prevent that from happening.” (p. 227)

The questions at the conclusion of each chapter helped me dig up unproductive habits, hang-ups and hurts; they are a helpful framework for a spiritual inventory – a good tool for understanding how some things can go so wrong. Answering these questions confirms my stubborn attachment to sin – a costly and painful predilection that cannot defeat the love of God for His children. Though it can become a powerful weapon in Satan’s hands (pp. 165-164), and I will wound more than myself!  My poor understanding of God’s extravagant grace hurts many I love, especially my kids. (p. 170)

The good news of the gospel is precisely what gives us the courage to be honest about our sin without being undone by it . . . when we grasp the  gospel, we do not need to be afraid of what we find in our hearts [or others']  for God’s grace is far greater than all our sin. (pp 175-176)

Only when you neutralize the fear of failure can you have some real fun.  

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