Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Failed Missionaries?

It was about three weeks ago that Cynthia first mentioned to me the new title that God gave her as the heading for our blog: "failed missionaries living faith-filled lives". At first I didn't like it for the same reasons as many of our friends, because I struggle with being labeled as a "failure", and because I don't feel like we are a failure in God's eyes. However, as time has gone on the title has grown on me, so let me present our reasoning behind it.

You will notice throughout this post that I write "failure" in quotation marks, because we're simply using it as a label, we aren't saying that it's the only (or even the most accurate) way to describe ourselves or what we were trying to do over the past year.

My greatest fear has always been failure: as a kid I was someone who was athletic and fairly smart, and so I was usually able to master most things I tried without too much effort and without too much risk. Anything I wasn't sure about I would just avoid. I can't stand making a fool of myself in front of other people. It was a very real fear that I had to face when we started the big, scary, intimidating partnership development process: what if I'm not successful? Could I still look myself in the mirror and still consider myself a person? Would it destroy my identity and my self-image?

As things played out, I don't feel like either Cynthia or I failed in what God gave us to do: we did our best and what caused us to change direction was wholly outside of our control. I prayed about whether we should just grit our teeth and keep pushing through and I really, honestly felt God tell me not to; He told us to change direction and put our dreams away (maybe on hold, maybe for good). That's not giving up or quitting.

So what do you do when what you step out in faith, do what it felt like God had told you to pursue, and it doesn't work out? To an outside observer, it does appear to be "failure". What should we do with that? As far as we look at it personally, we aren't treating it as a failure: we're understanding that God simply has different purposes for us than we expected.

However, as we are hoping this blog can become a testimony and a ministry to others, I believe God has given Cynthia and I an experience to be used to encourage others who are either on the verge of pursuing a dream God has given (and are afraid of what will happen if it doesn't work out) or who have had a similar disillusioning, confusing experience where they tried, but things didn't turn out the way they expected. That fear of "failure" in the eyes of parents, peers, friends, neighbors, etc is a very real pressure.

Our story, and our reaction to the "failure" of our dream, is an illustration that God is faithful even if the worst happens and it comes to nothing. Instead of fearing the label "failed", we are embracing it, and using it to tell others that if they succeed, God will be there for them, but also if they "fail" God will still be there, and will strengthen them to lead faith-filled lives no matter where they end up. That's all God calls any of us to do: whether that ends up looking like "success" or "failure" in the eyes of the world or other Christians or anyone is up to God.

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