Brilliance and failure.
Both/And rather than Either/Or – my exploration of some of my favourite tensions in the Christian faith. Holding multiple things in tension is a good thing – hence why I am writing this blog series. I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.
Jesus tells a fascinating story about a master and three men. The master gives these three men various amount of “talents” and the three men respond differently.
One man turns the investment of talents into more.
The next turns it into more.
The third buries it, and does nothing with it.
As a result, the master is ticked.
This story is brilliant. And here’s why – at the most basic level of our humanity is this truth: we are made in the image of a Creator God, and in being made in his image we are made to co-create with him. We are made to do something. Why is the master so ticked off? Because, at the most foundational level of our humanity we are made to do something with what we have been given. It’s a human thing – not an I’m-a-better-Christian thing. We have been made to make, and make things we must.
The Christian life is one of getting dirty hands from handling the tools of the Kingdom and doing the work of the Kingdom. It is one of everyone doing the work and making things. The most fully alive Christian community is one that is noisy, dusty and chaotic with the buzz of things being created. Dying Christian community is where one person, is doing the work. There’s not much “community” about that.
And this brings me to how we outwork all of this.
Some of us strive for brilliance – that God deserves our best. Some of us lay back and chill out, and try not to get too precious about things and become OK with failure-induced mediocrity.
Both of these worlds are to be held in tension. Scripture shows us that to do our best is important to God. There are plenty of Biblical examples of this – two I think of immediately are the entire book of Proverbs and the pleas of the prophets that God deserves our best efforts rather than the “she’ll be right” sacrifices. God indeed desires for us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
But, there is also a world of failure. Of trying, and not getting it right. Of giving things a go, and we didn’t “kill it” – in fact, we murdered it. There are plenty of Biblical examples of this too – Peter sinking, Judas betraying, Paul and Barnabas separating, churches mucking up what’s important… It seems for all of the brilliance we see, we also see failure.
We mustn’t become content with failure – we must remember that getting things wrong is indeed getting it wrong. But, we must be gracious and keep things where they need to be, after all, little things are little things and big things are big things. I view all of my activity – the things I say and do – through this lens of doing things with brilliance. But along the way things fail – sometimes because of me, and sometimes because of others. It takes loads of grace and lashings of wisdom to negotiate this well, but that is the joy of living in the tension of both of these realities: my plans get messed with, and that’s OK.
God’s story is one of invitation into his family to be part of his family and do as the family does. This requires giving the Kingdom life a go. There will be moments of brilliance as we do this, and there will be moments of failure.
Enjoy the tension of both, because here’s why both is important – and if there’s no tension, you’re probably either in a place of being so brilliant you’re not needing God, or in a place of being so blimmin’ useless he’s frustrated like the master in the story was.
“Without God we cannot – without us God will not.” – Augustine