Fear, failure and success
My greatest fear is that I will not be successful; that I will land at 70 and realise my life fell short of its potential. But then I ask myself, what do I think is my potential? What do I think I deserve? What does success mean to me?
When our culture says someone is successful, we mean he/she has a lot of money, they have properties, power, fame, influence and impact with their work. Think of the faces of people who grace our magazine covers and whose social media accounts we follow by the millions. Rarely do we follow them for their virtue. We follow them for their power, affluence and influence.
I measure success by the same parameters as the world, I realise. I want to accomplish important things and attain self actualisation. I want to be known for something I am or have done. I want a trophy, an award, an accolade, a star, my name on an adult honor roll, Top40Under40 something, anything that says the world acknowledges my greatness. I want to have lots and lots of money. I want to to own homes and farms and a hotel. I want the fine things in life. I want to never have to worry about the cost of groceries or school fees or the level on the fuel gauge. I want to give without counting cost. I want to be able to take part in the #5CountriesChallenge without feeling like an underdog. Mine will be 42 countries. Sigh.
I have been reading about Abraham, that hero of faith, whom God told to uproot his entire family from his prosperous home town, from his 14-bedroom villa in Ur, to take him to live in tents abroad. God told Abraham, "Leave and go to a place I will show you." How often God's instructions sound exactly like that. Like, really God, that's all you are letting out? No address, no five-year strategic plan, no vison casting, just "Follow me"? Suppose you lead me to a swamp? Suppose you make me a poor missionary in a God-forsaken country somewhere? Suppose you tell me, like Jonah, to go preach to Ninevites whom I can bet a toe will deride me? Suppose the cross leads to my home and hovers there for decades- no accomplishments, no fame, no fortune?
My BSF class notes on Abraham had this life-pausing questions: What things in life seem more precious or secure than following God? Where are you being led by insecurity, self determination and fear? When God leads you beyond your comfort and understanding, will you trust him? What is your greatest fear today?
Faith is accepting God's will even when I don't know what it is. Faith is letting the cross of Christ cross me and saying, "Yes Lord, I will deny myself and follow you." Faith is saying packing up life as I know it, when God says, "Go to a land I will show you". Faith is wading through the swamp with a prayer and a song if that is where Christ calls. Because although following God is risking losing what this world values, God can be trusted. God's will can be trusted. God's 'mediocre' plans will always be better than our best plans for ourselves.
It is foolish pride to think I can do better with my life than God can. God's foolishness does not even approach my wisdom. But as long as I keep defining success as anything other than following God's will, I will live with my fear of failure. Because only God can define success. Only He can say, "good and faithful servant". The only real failure is walking in my own wisdom or letting secular standards tell me if I have arrived.
Here is a quote I wrote down, I'm not sure of the source. "Self effort plagues humanity. We wrongly think that trying harder, working longer or investing more takes us where we want to go. Our little towers crumble before the greatness of God."
If I am a masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared for me before creation of the world, then there is no way I can fail if I follow God. Would Abraham's friends have thought his new calling would mean any "success"? In fact they must have told jokes about his poor business decision. Yet God has already ordered our steps. We need to get to that place where we say God's best is best for me; If God is not giving it, we are fine with that. Personally I have said if I fail, if I fall, let me fall at God's feet.