This post follows on from ‘The Rise And Fall Of : Part 2’
The third lesson – that God is good – is where we need to go next. The person who knows they are special, and good, will not grow to maturity without learning this lesson. Job: so special, God boasts about him; so successful; loses everything, not as the consequence of sin but in order to gain an insight into Jesus millennia before the incarnation. Joseph: from long-sleeved coat and dreams, to oversight of his brothers, to pit and slavery and prison. Moses: from saving from infanticide, to Prince of Egypt, to such brokenness he speaks with a stammer. David: from prophetic anointing, to lauded general, to outlaw in a cave. Jesus: from nativity, to carpenter, to the wilderness; from ministered to by angels, to drawing crowds, to desertion; from anointing at Bethany, to triumphant entry into Jerusalem, to crucifixion. Paul: from privileged background, to rising star of his generation, to fourteen years in the desert. This is where we discover that God is good; that though we are good, we don’t need to be good, because God has given himself unreservedly to us. Here – in our failure – is where we discover that we don’t need to hide from God. Here is where we discover that God shares our pain; where we discover joy, which (as opposed to happiness) is wellbeing that transcends pain.
We need to experience failure, but not indefinite failure, for that crushes the spirit. When the experience of failure has done its work – this time around – God brings us back to an experience that affirms to us that we are special, and gives us experiences of success – exalted and brought low, emptied and filled, as God does his work of perfection in us. This is how we move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.
And so I look back on a season of my life where I was affirmed as special (the privilege of six years at university); which gave way to a season where I experienced success (the platform of six years on the staff at St Thomas’); which in turn gave way to a season where all that success was taken away from me in order that I might experience failure (the obscurity of two years going through selection for ordination, two years at theological college, two years – so far – of curacy). Of course, there have been many smaller experiences of love, of success, and of failure within each of these broader seasons. Each stage was a means of God saving me: from believing that I am not special; from believing that I can amount to nothing; from believing that I can achieve in my own strength or can achieve anything worthwhile without cost. I find myself able to give thanks for the gift of all three seasons, through which I have learnt to rely more fully on God. And – recognising that I am still (just!) in the first half of my life (-expectancy), still aiming at success and experiencing failure, yet to experience the true success that lies beyond embracing failure – I find myself looking forward to the next cycle, and future cycles, through which I will learn to rely on God more and more, and experience greater intimacy with him.