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The power of failure

November cover of Gatherby Elizabeth Hunter

Who among us enjoys failing? I sure don’t. Sometimes my fail­ures have been relatively minor, like the time I burned the stew.

The most bitter failures have been times I’ve failed my family or myself. While struggling to balance various roles and responsibilities, I’ve seen myself fall short in one area or another.

Perhaps you, too, can relate to writer Abby Accettura, who says today’s social media networks allow her to “bury the [ugly] parts,” “hide my failures” and “edit my mistakes.” But hiding failures isn’t something we need to do. As Christians, we can “rely on the idea that the things we lack are made up for by God,” Accettura writes.

Like many of our November authors, I’ve had to accept my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Several years ago I mourned my failure to be a good god­parent to far-away godchildren. Then it hit me: Other people struggled with the same issue—not just godparents but grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and more. Out of this came The Little Luther­an and The Little Christian, magazines published 2007–2015 that helped teach thousands of young children about the Christian faith. Here was God, turning what I thought was unredeemable weak­ness into blessed strength.

Yet “this weakness thing is tricky,” columnist Catherine Malotky writes. She challenges us to consider whether bullying behavior, wealth or privilege make us powerful, or whether other things such as hospitality, courage, commitment, forgiveness and patience give us more strength.

In this month’s Bible study, we can see that the apostle Paul learned these lessons—just as we do today. Before his life-changing encounter with Christ, Saul approved of the killing of Stephen and watched over the coats of those who were stoning Stephen to death—lest those coats be stolen. Here is abuse of authority and failure at its worst: our failure to see the divine image in another child of God. Yet God turned Saul’s life of persecuting others around, reforming him into Paul, one who would tell people in many different lands about Christ, encouraging them to keep that same Christian faith he once tried to destroy!

Honesty and vulnerability are impor­tant to model for our children, Julia Seymour writes. When we don’t acknowledge our mis­takes in front of our children, they miss opportunities to learn resilience and per­severance. Prayer, reading the Bible, ser­vice and participating in congregational life all take practice, she says, adding that “the more children see the adults around them practicing these things—including admitting to failure—the more resilient they will become.

As Bible study author Meghan John­ston-Aelabouni writes, we’re called to be faithful; not perfect. As author Karen Craigo reminds us, the cracks add to our beauty. And as Scripture shows, God’s love and mercy make life worth living, despite our mistakes.

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.

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