Trinity 6 – Seeming Failure
Yesterday like many others I was watching the Wimbledon women’s singles final. You shouldn’t have favourites, not least because then you fret the whole match, but I really wanted Ons Jerbeau to win. She is an amazing player, and importantly someone who inspires girls and young women in North Africa and throughout the world. Having lost last year how wonderful I thought if this time she got the famous trophy. Well as we know that wasn’t to be and an amazing young Czech overcame many challenges to take the crown.
As Jerbeau, and most likely her followers wept, I pondered upon the idea of failure, or perhaps seeming failure. I say seeming failure for a reason, for how often have we seemingly failed t something we set ourselves either to find out that it was the wrong hope or challenge, or that the failure actually prompted some change in us that led to places we had not previously considered?
In sport perhaps the trajectory is simpler, you try to build fitness, experience, advice, take care of your diet, your well-being, and set yourself demanding routines and habits to try to achieve what you desire. Mental strength and perseverance seem essential because the road to success isn’t a straight line, you can appear to do doing the right things, and yet your goals allude you. The dream is to keep going so that one day, if you have what it takes you succeed.
Life itself could be said to be littered with seeming failures, the kind that mean we know we were not the person we hope to be, or larger failures when we let ourselves down, or when life overwhelms us with challenges or events we feel we cannot process, grief, relationship breakdown, ill health, mental distress and so on, Everyone has had or will have periods when they wonder why on earth does life seem so hard, why has everything they tried to build seem to have fallen away? And yet these seeming failures, trials, challenges, can often lead to fresh perspectives, stronger responses, and if we are lucky not only some growth, but a sense of the grace of God in life’s hardest times.
Modern life, and perhaps not only life today tends to preference the winner, the successful, and those who don’t achieve or feel they don’t are not part of the conversation. We like to talk about the rich, the famous, the beautiful, the clever, and avoid the ordinary. And yet life is by and large made up of the ordinary. Young people set themselves impossible targets of how to look, what life they can afford, or ought to aspire to, and it isn’t just the young. In making winning or being the best such a high priority we are in danger of missing the blessings of the commonplace, the usual, to normal, seeing it as hardly matter, when in truth it brings the lasting pleasures. The people on love island may look good [ if you like that kind of thing] but how many of them however pretty ever end up happy and loved and supported?
Our Gospel this morning is the famous parable of the sower, and traditionally it is read of course as it relates as an allegory of the tasks and trials, and triumphs of sowing the Word or good news. I am tempted to look at it afresh, for what if we consider the metaphor a different way? Gardening, or commercial farming for crops is a very good metaphor for life, and a way of thinking about success. As you will know if you do either it is a process or trial and error, victories and looses in equal measure. Each failiure often teaching us a little something about weather, or timing, or soil, or conditions. And wouldn’t life, and most people’s mental health be better if we approached life as we do the garden? Clearly with a vision of the best it could be, but content to let our efforts each season speak for themselves, willing to accept that some things will work, others will show us a flaw, or an unfortunate circumstance, and yet on we go to try again?
I wish wholeheartedly that Jerbeau one day gets her dream, she is a fine person and it would be a joy to cheer her victory. But life is not about winning or losing, it isn’t about perfection or nothing, those are unhelpful in life and more so in the spiritual life. Persistence, a belief that one day things will come right, and an eagerness to look for the wisdom to be learned in so-called losses is what keeps the saints going. Few succeeded first time, little worth having is easy, and things obtained cheaply rarely are worth having
So perhaps not the reading of the parable of the sower you expected but you have heard the other one many times. Cherish your perceived losses, for they may well be the price you pay for living the life you were born to live.