Learning Through FailureNov 10th, 2014 | By Tony Stoltzfus | Category: Featured Content, Transformational Coaching
Last month we spoke about the MapQuest Paradigm—the idea that God has one set of directions for our life. And, if we miss a step or make a wrong turn that we are somehow disqualified from reaching our ultimate destination or purpose in life. The biggest practical shortcoming of the MapQuest model is that it doesn’t acknowledge how God grows us into our calling through failure as well as success.
Years ago I outgrew my role in an organization I was serving with and moved across the country to step into another role. The last few months in the old role felt like being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube. My right-hand man at work left and I had to take over most of his responsibilities, train his successor and train mine all at the same time. In the midst of that, I also lost my secretarial support. Meanwhile, the house was up for sale (which meant constant extra chores to keep it show-able) and things had gotten very frustrating at church. I basically lost it attitude-wise for about three months. I grumbled, I stewed, I let myself get angry, and I was on the point of refusing a farewell banquet from the church. Not my finest hour.
Two months after we finally moved, I was taking a walk one day when suddenly God showed me how I had handled those three months. I was mortified at how poorly I’d responded. After repenting and dealing with it, it occurred to me that I had still learned the lesson about attitude that Jesus wanted to teach me—I had just done it the hard way!
The lesson I took away from that experience is that if God is trying to teach you something, you can get the lesson whether you initially respond poorly or well. You can fail and still get to where God wants you to be, because where you are supposed to be is more about who you are becoming than being in the right place doing the right thing at the right time.
If the primary thing God calls us to is embodying a certain quality of Christ, there are myriad ways to express that incarnation. In fact, when you become like Jesus, the message of your life comes out in everything you do, whether you are functioning in your calling task or not. So not only are there many ways to get to the destination, but no matter how you get there, your calling can be expressed through your being along the way.
One challenge I often give is to create “A Call for All Seasons”: to express one’s call in a way that no change in external circumstances can hinder. That action step forces us to remove the external trappings of a role or project and get down to the guts of the message we are trying to communicate.
Another way to address the “I made a mistake and therefore I missed it” obstacle is to compare it to the stories of biblical characters. You feel called to eradicate human trafficking but you ended up in business for the last 20 years instead? Maybe you and Moses ought to have a heart-to-heart—you’ve got a lot in common. Had an affair with a friend’s wife and destroyed your ministry along with your friendship? David repented, dealt with God and became a better man for it—why can’t you? Ashamed of how much you did in your pre-Christian years to turn people away from God? Maybe you and Paul should compare stories. If these leaders can walk through catastrophic failures and still go on to fulfill their destinies, what does that mean for you? God is in the redemption business.
Tony Stoltzfus is an author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on this topic can be found in Tony’s book, The Christian Life Coaching Handbook.