It’s one thing to know that failure is a part of success, but it’s another thing altogether to keep going when things really get tough. If you’re anything like me, it’s easy for success to go to your head and failure to go to your heart. And the rough patches only get rougher by virtue of the fact that we lose confidence in our repeated attempts at progress—leading to a spiraling cycle of self-condemnation or retreat. Of course, this isn’t an inevitable black hole, it’s just that when our hard-fought efforts crumble or are erased, it can lead to some serious soul searching. How do we keep our hearts from melting under the pressure of disappointment?
The good news is that some healthy soul searching is a valuable thing. This type of growth is slow—like watching a piece of fruit develop over the course of an entire season. The problem is that we all accept that fruit requires time to ripen, but we rarely afford ourselves a similar patience. I suppose one could say that each day that a piece of fruit isn’t ripe, it fails to be ready. Or, taken to an extreme, if a banana’s sole purpose in life is for the moment of consumption, then it really only has one fleeting moment of glory. But you likely accept that this is an absurd way to view a banana because we understand that its value isn’t only defined by our momentary desire for it.
But this is precisely how a hyper-consumption culture disciples us to think. I only think about bananas when I eat them because I don’t grow them. Our family doesn’t own a banana tree. We don’t have to. Instead I can circumvent all the work of farming by purchasing bananas from a store that receives them from a distributor that purchases them from a buyer who is likely connected to a large corporate farming operation somewhere in a Brazilian banana plantation that I’ll never see. That works for bananas. Not so for people.
You can’t buy wisdom from Walmart. Amazon can’t ship maturity to your doorstep. And you certainly can’t outsource your own growth to surrogates—relying on others to cultivate your heart and mind for you. You do need help, but you don’t need spiritual scalability. The price of perseverance is faith along the lifelong process of sanctification—a sacred cycle of trying and failing, winning and losing, singing and crying, cheering and sitting still. Silence. Reflection. Pondering. Assessing. Confessing. Collapsing. Collecting.
If God was threatened by our failure, he simply wouldn’t allow things to continue on like this. Thankfully, he is patient with us. And likewise, the strength of resilient people is revealed by their patience with His process and plan. They remain soft because they allow the Holy Spirit time to cultivate the soil of their hearts. Failure isn’t terrifying to mature Christians because they embrace that they aren’t gods and they know that their mistakes won’t jeopardize God’s plans. This doesn’t make our actions inconsequential, it simply makes us human.