Failure is a boon companion

“Failure. …Bereft of any honest and spiritually potent place to go with our failures and wrestle them to some kind of peace, we early on master the craft of costuming them in deft rationalizations, so that they look like other things–accidents, acts of God, other people’s faults. And then we start learning to lug them along with us, like silent lead.
The full scope of God’s presence is revealed as we fail because God lives at the very heart of failure–in the failing of Christ, the death, the shame, the mockery and, now, the trivialization and the bigotry–and in the failing of Buddha, and Mohammed, and Confucius, and Moses and all the rest, to staunch the flow of hatred and dispel the clouds of arrogance yet. God has not failed. But God lives with us in the place we have built for God. SOmetimes God sits there beside us, each of us with our head in our hands.
But when, with courage and in good company, we open our eyes from the heart of failure, or from a little rise in the road overlooking its memory, there are three redemptive things to see.
One is our limitedness: the boundaries of finitude around us, and thus the grace of freedom to be who we can be within them, without our ever having to be everything.
Another is our interdependence: the fact that we can hold this experience in common as potential companions, and thus the grace to be, together, what none of us can entirely be alone.
And a third is the forgiveness that surrounds and, in time, empowers: the forgiveness of others, the forgiveness of God, and finally the priceless grace to forgive yourself.
After a failure breaks out of its festering, silent cocoon into all the grace of those three dimensions–the grace of limits, of companionship and of forgiveness–only one question remains: What to do with the dried husk of its memory? And I think the answer is clear. There is only one place to take what we cannot find any other safe place for. There is only one love strong and constant enough to defuse any ticking despair. There is only one voice clear enough to speak through the storm.
Let it be an offering.  Give it away. It will not be your most beautiful gift, surely, nor your easiest to let go of, either. But place it in the hands of another–place it in the safe hands of that God that you find in another, and let go. And all will be possible again. The road winds on through the woods. “
—Rev. Richard E. Spaulding, Oct. 4, 1990
from A BOOK OF MEDITATIONS: Readings from Phillips Exeter Academy, 1983-1994
1972 graduate of the academy, at the printing of this book Co-Pastor of the Church of the Covenant in Boston and also Presbyterian Chaplain at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges
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~ by Shirley Kwan on July 19, 2013.

One Response to “Failure is a boon companion”

  1. From a member of my women’s meditation group, to which I presented this earlier tonight:

    “I am going to copy and paste into my documents and change the font to Papyrus and the font color to deep lavender. I see the color purple for failure. A regal and rich color that inspires. Failure unveils the feminine as we yield our direction to the unknown.”

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