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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Phoenix Renewal

In your life, when has God used one of your weaknesses or failures to help someone else? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, p.373).

The above question points to a truth that is undeniable – weaknesses and failures frequently have redemptive value. They are often redemptive both to oneself and to others. We can see that one value of novels and other fiction is that in them are dysfunctional characters whose very flaws give us greater insight into our own lives. Let us consider some of the factors involved in redemptive weakness and failure.

First, failures or weaknesses can have tremendous influence over where we find ourselves. For example, if I were totally successful I might find myself in Hollywood as a movie star. But let us say that does not happen and I find myself in my humble hometown far removed from glitter or fortune. Place plays a huge role in the people I meet, the things I do, and the life I lead. For example, since I did not end up in Hollywood, I married a hometown girl; I found a job locally and daily interacted with neighbors, co-workers and customers. It is obvious that the nexus of life I construct—the people I meet and greet (even the family I help create)—is decisively influenced by locale. If I “bloom where I'm planted” I can have far-reaching positive impact on others—friends, family, co-workers, even strangers. Thus because of weaknesses or failures, important fresh opportunities abound—even if (in an extreme case) my weaknesses were to eventually land me in a penal institution.

After experiencing a weakness or failure, we can learn humility. It is a great advantage to overcome false pride, and pride based on ignorance. Likewise, it can be a tremendous boon to come face-to-face with reality. Reassessment of talents based on our true strengths often becomes possible only after flights of fancy have nose-dived and crashed to the ground.

Weaknesses and failures can testify to unusually big dreams and strong ambitions. Even if dreams do not materialize exactly as planned (and are in this sense a failure), they can nevertheless have positive impact. Many people go to school and get an education based on dreams that will never be realized. Nevertheless because of those dreams they will have achieved learning, perspectives, and experiences they would never have otherwise achieved. In this sense, the failure represented by unfulfilled dreams can result in long-term, substantial success.

A significant benefit of having failures and weaknesses is that it is an entrĂ©e to enhanced accessibility. Since virtually everyone is only too well aware of their own weaknesses and failures, it is vastly reassuring to find someone willing to acknowledge his own. We then immediately feel profoundly relieved and experience a sense of freedom. To see someone “bent but not defeated” gives us encouragement and brings about almost reflexive feelings of friendship and goodwill. We finally have found someone who shares our own often repressed and embarrassing experiences. This can help us to fully accept our own failures and perhaps for the first time cultivate an attitude that allows us to learn from them and fully overcome them.

In sum, failures and weaknesses ironically present us with great opportunities. They have within them the seeds of redemption for ourselves and others.

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