“When you fail, dust yourself off and move on.”

Yesterday’s assigned Gospel reading was the story of Jesus sending out the 70. Before they go, Jesus advises them on how to do their work and live their lives. It is the final advice that Jesus gives them, and us, that I find so amazing: “When you fail, dust yourself off and move on.”

Notice Jesus didn’t say “if” you fail; he said “when.” Jesus expected us to fail sometimes, even when we were simply trying to do good. What a freeing concept, to realize Jesus doesn’t expect us to always succeed. God doesn’t expect us to hit every ball out of the park, but we are expected to swing when it’s our turn at the plate and not to miss the Reign of God when it comes near.

Not to win is not a sin. Jesus was clear that failing doesn’t make you a failure, and losing doesn’t make you a loser. In fact, the struggle has the capacity to help you learn and grow stronger. It can be like caffeine for your soul, unless you let your defeats defeat you.

As a leader, Jesus was sending his disciples out to develop their ministries. He knew they’d make mistakes and would have failures, but he also knew that was no reason to discard someone. Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, had a junior executive who made a very great mistake. It cost the company $10 million. The next day, Watson called the young executive into his office to give an accounting. At the end, the young man said, “I suppose you want my resignation,” to which Watson replied, “Are you kidding? We just spent $10 million educating you.”

Learning from our mistakes can be expensive, but not as expensive as not learning from them. Making a mistake doesn’t disqualify us from serving God, but I think failing to learn and try again might.

Scientists often learn more from what doesn’t work than from what does. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want, and have to say I have lots of experience. It has helped me succeed, and kept me from making the same mistake again. It hasn’t, however, kept me from making new ones. Fortunately, for that, there is God’s relentless grace.

by Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal

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