Charlie's Blog: Failure Is An Option

9.19.2015

Failure Is An Option


And Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and in his own house, and among his own kindred. And he could not do any miracles there, only that he cured a few that were sick, laying his hands upon them. And he wondered because of their unbelief, and he went through the villages round about teaching.
MARK 6:4-6 DOUAY-RHEIMS

I have to laugh whenever I hear some idiot say, "Failure is not an option!" What hubris! There are two levels of stupidity at work in that line. The first is that failure is somehow a choice. The second is that failure can somehow be willed away by the same exercise of choice. Then, there are those who believe failure is essential in much the same way that Edison found it essential to fail his way to inventing an incandescent bulb. But failure is neither avoidable nor essential. Failure simply happens. This does not make it preferrable or even useful. It simply makes it an option.

When I think of failure, I'm not considering my own failures since they are already considerable enough. I am talking about failure when it comes to the Church. The Roman Catholic Church is simply a colossal failure in the annals of history. Hilaire Belloc wrote, "The Church is a perpetually defeated thing that always outlives her conquerers.” This is important stuff to remember as people wring their hands and fret and worry about what will happen to the Church from the various threats she faces both internal and external. The reality is that the Church is always dying, yet it never dies.


I am reminded of the scene in The Mission where the natives tie the missionary to a cross and send him over the falls. That is failure. We love to hear the stories of mass conversion and conquering saints. But what about those saints who were cut down as soon as their feet hit the ground? Where is God in this failure?

Can God fail? That is a bold question to ask and borders on blasphemy. The answer is even more bold because we must say yes. God can fail because He did fail. He failed at Nazareth among his own kindred to convert them. He would go on to fail to convince His own people that He was their true Messiah, and they crucified Him. But that failure is only seen from one viewpoint. When you turn the looking glass around, you see that Jesus did not fail but His people failed Him. In the wider view of things, God does not fail. The world is the failure.


To be a Christian is to be a failure in this world. I think we forget this. I know I forget this. A Protestant derisively asks, "Are you living right?" This is in response to the Catholic who does not follow the prosperity teachings of Joel Osteen and his ilk. But I tell you now, if you are a success in this world, you will be a failure in the next. God does not care about your success in this life. Let no Christian think he or she is above their cross.

Success in this world is like being promoted to captain right after the Titanic hit the iceberg. I am heartened by those who reject worldly success to take up the cross. In my own life, I regret those times when I was more concerned with the world than with God. It is so hard to keep your eyes on the prize. I yearn to be indifferent to the world like the saints I admire.

Failure is my option. I choose to fail in this world. I may stumble my way out of it, but I want to look beyond this place. I hate the world. Each day makes me care less and less about the world. I think God is answering my prayer for indifference to worldly things. To see all this madness and stupidity, I don't have to ask myself if I am living right. I have to thank God that I still have the sanity to know better.