Over the years I have been privileged to lead chapel devotions for the Lewis and Clark Scout Camp. Looking over the assembled group of boys and leaders, I generally attempt to strike a note of support and encouragement, to remind them that as Scouts and even adult leaders, too often we find the life is discouraging. That is where this blog idea originates.
A man complained to his rabbi of depression. His life lately seemed like an endless string of failures, disappointments, and missed opportunities. Why, he asked, had God condemned him to live such a frustrating existence? The rabbi listened carefully and after some moments of contemplation, he asked the man to reach behind him and remove a large volume from his bookshelf. Assuming this was some tome of ancient spiritual wisdom, the man reached for the volume. He noticed that it was an almanac of sports statistics. “Read page 543 aloud,” the rabbi instructed. And the man began reading the lifetime batting averages of baseball’s greatest hitters. Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams. Not one of them more than 400 the rabbi observed. That means more than six in ten times, the greatest of the great struck out, popped up or flied out. More than six in ten times, they failed. The rabbi asked, “Are you better than they were? Why do you expect more of yourself than they did?” If it doesn’t break us, failure can be life’s greatest teacher. What can we learn from failure? That we can start again. That we can ask for help. That we can be forgiven. What does failure teach? That we are limited, finite, fallible, vulnerable, but still worthy of love.”
I like that story because all too often we imagine that the greatest among us, the Ty Cobbs, Babe Ruths and Ted Williams all lived a charmed life. After all how else did they get to be the best? What about some other famous “failures”. Did you know that Einstein spent a lifetime looking for a theory that doesn’t exist. Babe Ruth holds a record for the most strikeouts. Columbus never did make it to India. And Moses never made it to the Promised Land. Imagine that, the entire Torah ends in failure: Moses never got to see the fulfillment of his dream. Yet what do you remember about those men is not the failure, but the successes. The achievements of Einstein are still studied by students. We don’t even remember that Columbus set out for India, and Babe Ruth is known for homeruns not strikeouts. Moses, the leader of the Israelites out of Egypt, not the fact that he died on Mt. Nebo in modern Jordan.
What about you? Are you going to focus on the number of times you didn’t connect for a homerun? Will you focus on the strikeouts, or are you looking to see where God can use you? You see failure need not be your legacy. Why did Babe Ruth strike out so often? It was because he was swinging for the fences. He was not content with a bunt or a base hit, he swung for the fences. Why did Einstein persist in a theory that did not exist? Because he knew there was more to life than he could explain. What about you? What about the call of God in your life?
Let me wrap this up with one last parable. It’s a story about a peasant who lived in a village at the foot of mountain range. On the side of the mountain, in full view of the village, stood a monastery. The village people very seldom ever saw one of the monks and they held them in high awe. One day one of the monks descended from the mountain to the village below. The peasant, running up to the monk, said: “Oh, Father, surely yours is the best of all lives, living so close to God up in the clouds on top of the mountain. Please tell me, what do you do up there.” After a thoughtful pause, the monk replied, “What do we do up there? Well, I’ll tell you. We fall down and we get up. We fall down and we get up. We fall down and we get up.” That’s it! That’s what the Christian life is all about. We all belong to the “Society of the Skinned Knees!” We all try to walk the walk but we fall down. We fall down and we get up, again and again and again. With God’s help we keep on walking. With God’s help we can get up. But it’s our choice. We don’t have to get up. We could just stay down for the count. But if we turn to God in the midst of our suffering, then we will be enabled to get up. You see failure is never forever, as long as you allow God to give you a hand up!
At New Trails Ministry we know a lot about falling down and getting back up again. I invite you to take a look at your schedule and make time in your schedule to come out and join us. We specialize in helping you get from being stressed and depressed to finding a new trail of vitality. We just happen to believe God can work wonders through the wilderness, we can fill your Wilderness prescription here.