Brandon and I were talking this week on the podcast about our struggles with failure and the fear we have of failing, and I feel like I came to realize that the big difference in what we call failures and successes are largely a difference in perspective. There’s an old saying that most of us are probably familiar with. You can’t see the forest for the trees. I remember being very confused about this saying. In part, because I grew up in Phoenix, and so the idea of a forest was a little beyond me. More than that, though, I thought it was impossible to in a forest and not realize it. The idea that a person would be so far into the trees that they wouldn’t know they were in a forest seemed ridiculous to me. The older I’ve gotten, though, the more I’ve come to realize why this saying stuck around.
When we think about the idea of our mission or our calling, successes are hard to define in a meaningful way. So often, I will consult God about my calling, but only until I feel like I know what He is calling me to do. What I normally forget, though, is that He is calling me for eternity, and I’m answering in the moment. On one level, this seems incredibly obvious. On another level, though, it’s a kind of unavoidable situation. Even in communications between the finite and infinite, successes can be hard to come by. In the case of my calling, even more so. I ask God what he wants me to do, and I can, sometimes, kind of understand the answer. The problem is, I ask what God wants me to do, but I can’t possibly understand all the things He will achieve through it.
As human beings, we like our successes to be clear, identifiable, and well defined. When I was working at the parish in New Mexico, for example, I had to fight the constant temptation to judge our youth group in terms of the number of teens who showed up. I thought I knew what God wanted to accomplish with me, or at least I thought I knew how to tell if I was getting closer. The truth, though, is that I have no idea what the rest of the puzzle was supposed to be, so I have no real idea what my part was needed for. The truth is that we have to get comfortable with a couple of ideas about our role in ministry. First, we won’t really be able to know to what extent our ministry produced successes until we, hopefully, gain the heavenly view on it all. Secondly, our successes won’t ultimately be our own doing. Success or failure on a human scale are both completely within God’s power to bring eternal successes out of.