FEAR of failure can be devastating. When failure looms, it threatens to silence our hopes and dreams completely. Faced with the apparent intractability of our shortcomings, we may feel frustrated, hurt, inadequate, ashamed, or even worthless. But the threat of failure can serve as a rallying cry to higher action.
God's love is infinite; absolutely, positively unconditional. What does this mean? It means that there is simply no way to blunder so badly that God might not love us anymore. We don't have to wait until we reach rock bottom to find this out. But even if we feel we're down as far as we can get--no matter what it might look like, we have not flunked out of God's love. We are not at the end of the line. We have not completely blown it. God has not lost patience with us. God's love never fails to be present for each and every one of us.
Paul spoke concisely on this point when he said to the Christians at Corinth, ``Charity never faileth'' (I Corinthians 13:8). The charity that Paul was talking about is the love of God--absolutely unconditional. He's not talking about some far-off God or hypothetical love. He has been explaining that an understanding of God is a very real and practical thing.
Think about that. God in His wisdom has decided that we're worth loving. Now and always. Are we going to argue? But what He loves is not our shortcomings or our failures or our limitation. God loves His child, the perfect, spiritual man of His creating. And when we see that what we really are is this God-created man, the limited, materialistic view of ourselves that has failed us so desperately begins to break up. We are opening our viewpoint a bit to learn more about the nature of God's love. It's worth the effort to get over our own skepticism and begin to lay aside a harsh and inaccurate judgment of ourselves for one that's more lovable and loving--and far more accurate.
The authority to do this comes from the Bible. Jesus explained quite plainly the need to be obedient to God, even when the short-term view of our actions interprets them as failure. He said, John's Gospel records, ``My judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me'' (5:30). Jesus was answering people who were angry with him for what they perceived as his failure to honor the Sabbath. He recognized that their thoughts on the subject were limited. More than limited, they were completely missing the point: Jesus had just healed a man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years! We need to stop judging our own success or failure from the world's limited perspective and begin to look more deeply into how well we're succeeding in finding a better sense of God, and of ourselves as His creation.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, helps us to look beyond fear or discouragement. In a paragraph urging us to exercise more Christian charity, she says, ``Let us be faithful in pointing the way through Christ, as we understand it, but let us also be careful always to `judge righteous judgment,' and never to condemn rashly'' (p. 444). Can't we take that to heart in the way we deal with ourselves as well as with others? We need to be honest with ourselves, but we need to distinguish such clearsighted honesty from harsh and condemning thoughts that lead nowhere.
It certainly is right to set goals and strive for a standard of excellence. But just as Christ Jesus' contemporaries needed to look deeper into the things of Spirit, God, for that standard, often so do we. When our lives fail to live up to our hopes, we don't need to lower our standards; we need to raise them. We need to remember that God made us, and be more willing to understand His unfailing love for His wholly spiritual creation. God neither created us as failures, nor left us free to make a mess of things.
Think of it this way for a moment. The creation is clearly a reflection of the creator. Now, God is the creator of man. We cannot believe that God is perfect and then condemn his masterpiece--man--as imperfect! God, the unfailing, could never create a failure.
God made us free from failure, and we cannot fail to be loved by Him. Right now, every one of us has succeeded in being loved by God. It may take courage to let that sink in. But with that as a starting point, we are able to think more ration-ally about anything we're doing. As we gratefully accept the fact of God's very present love for us, as we look for and find real evidence of it, the fear of failure begins to drop away. And, not surprisingly, the experience of failure drops away too.
What a beginning that is! As we cease to fear failure, we've uncovered freedom. We are more free to try new ideas and find creative solutions. We're more free to be honest with ourselves and with each other. Because God's love is unconditional, we are in no danger of losing it. Because God's love is infinite, we can share it forever and never run out. Because God's love is real, we are utterly free to be ourselves. Without that old fear, we're free instead to be patient, gentle, courageous, and strong. And we'd never, ever think of giving up.
Who among us wouldn't admit that we have much to learn? Yet, as we glimpse something of the Love that ``never faileth,'' we are in a position to follow humbly and courageously where God, divine Love, leads.
The demand of this and every hour is to recognize something more of the goodness of God's own creation, including ourselves. God has not failed. We can refuse to feel sorry for ourselves; refuse to think of ourselves as miserable failures, and discover the incredible freedom that comes as we learn, step by step, the nature of who God really made us to be.