Not quite sure what it is. It might be the weather. It might be getting over a bout with pinkeye. It might be a lack of sleep. Or it might be the struggles we’ve faced with my baby’s health lately. But in any case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of failing.
The best part of Student Ministry is the great successes we enjoy. There’s nothing like seeing a young man who has gotten into drugs, alcohol, hanging with the wrong crowd, and general sinfulness come to an altar and give it all to God after we’ve spent months pouring into him. There’s nothing like seeing a teenager girl come in broken, then receive the Holy Ghost, and witness the powerful transformation that brings her life. There’s absolutely nothing like seeing a youth group stuck in neutral, going no where, lit on fire and ready to change their world because of a powerful breakthrough in a Youth Prayer meeting.
Maybe I’m just not as good at it as you are, but I must admit, these times of victory are not a frequent as I’d like them to be. There’s a lot of struggle, and yes, failure along the way as well.
I remember a particular young man I really cared deeply about. He had a calling and anointing on his life; that was evident. I began mentoring him when he was about 13 years old. I have picture of him praying and weeping as the power of God moved over him. I have fond memories of talks we had where he shared his dreams of being powerfully used in the ministry. There was no doubt in my mind this guy was going to make a huge impact on his world.
As he got older, however, his circle of friends got more interested in the world than in living for God. Instead of standing strong, he went right down that same path with them. Oh, I saw it coming a mile away. At every crossroad I warned him of the danger of the path he was taking. I did my best to encourage him to do what was right. I stuck my neck out for him over and over, risked my own reputation for him. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough. He’s not living for God today. And yes, it devastates me…even today.
The ugly truth is, sometimes your best really isn’t good enough. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it’s not going to end the way you want it to end. Sometimes, despite all of the prayer and fasting, the studying, the preaching, the loving, the mentoring…sometimes it’s still not enough. Sometimes, no matter the effort, you fail.
But does that make you a failure? My Senior Pastor said something once that I wrote in my Bible and still read when I need encouragement. “Failure is not really failure unless you allow it to become your final chapter.”
I’ve written many chapters since that young man walked out of my life. Some ended much better than his story. Some ended worse. I tell people often that Student MInistry is for crazy people. You spend months and months and months banging your head up against a brick wall, and then finally you see one little crack, and it makes you bang your head more feverishly than before. You may not see another crack for more months to come, but it’s worth it to you.
If you can’t endure that, then I’m sorry…Student Ministry isn’t for you. But if you’re there with me right now, let me assure you (and myself), failing does not equal failure. You’re not a failure because your best efforts come up short. I think when we all get to heaven we’ll be amazed at the influence we had, and how much of a difference we made because we refused to give up.
I may feel like I’ve failed sometimes, but I’m not giving up. I have another chapter to write. I hope you do, too.