Students in field

Campus Ministry Blog

Courage to Fail

October 30, 2019

I’ve never considered myself brave.

Hardworking? Yes. A good teammate? I think so. Fun? My young daughters tell me so.   

But to be the one who sticks their neck out, walks an alternate path, who take risks and falls flat and gets back up again? Considering my style and choices I don’t earn the designation ‘alternative.’   Looking at my life, I think an observer would call it conventional. I’ve been pretty good at making measured goals, taking logical steps to achieve them, then moving on to the next, reasonable aim. And up to this point? That life tactic had led to a moderate level of success ( in the conventional sense). 

But then about a year ago, something told me to knock it off. Or rather, be brave. Dare to do something different– personally, professionally — both! Chop your hair. Join a movement. Get a tattoo? Anything! Put all your eggs in a basket, even if they get cracked. Take more risks, have the courage to fail. Do less talking (lady preacher), and more walking… like the One in whose name you claim to serve. 

Because Jesus? He made taking risks a lifestyle, from an early age. When he was just 12, he left his parents in a crowded holiday city and engaged in a three day Q and A with teachers four and five decades his senior. Launching his career as a rabbi, he didn’t call the most qualified, dignified or obvious people as his disciples, but rather an assorted mix of strangers who were in no way a safe-bet.  Throughout his ministry, Jesus ate with who he wasn’t supposed to, went where he wasn’t invited, and even healed in the most offensive ways possible. Ultimately, he dared to show a way of living so alternative to how the world was operating it got him killed. He wasn’t checking off boxes, following a path others told him to tread, or paying attention to convention in the least. Jesus was radical. He was brave with his life. He had the courage, even, to fail. 

And he is still affecting the world, 2,000 years later… 

So how did he do it? Where did he get the guts?  And how can we, too, tap into that, when we need to have courage in our daily choices?

The short answer is, I don’t know. I cannot guess at the internal motivations of someone who lived 2,000 years ago. Nobody can. However, we can observe what was said to have happened to Jesus, just before he went about making the majority of these bold life-choices:  All four gospel writers account that Jesus was baptized in a river and afterwards, as he came out of the water, there was a voice and it told him something about himself and, I think, it told us something about ourselves, too: God called him beloved. Beloved. Between his childhood and adulthood vocation, there was this  pause — and before he accomplished anything whatsoever Jesus was affirmed in his belovedness, his ‘enoughness.’ 

And these days — as I begin my ministry among Finlandia as your campus pastor — I wonder if that critical affirmation is something that not only I need to hear, but you as well. 

Before you make the grade or get any playing time — Beloved.

Before you land the job or meet that special life partner — Beloved.

Before you set the goals, or lay the plans — Beloved. 

When you feel broken — Beloved.

When you mess up — Beloved.

When you don’t know who you are…again, beloved. 

This is what God affirmed in Jesus when he is at the beginning of his life’s mission and I know, God affirms in you and me, too. Jesus learned this — then did radical things with his life. And I wonder, if it was in knowing his belovedness, his ‘enoughness’ deep in his bones, that made him capable of being so brave. He was rooted, and that gave him wings. 

I want to be brave like that among the Finlandia community, for the sake of you all. To take risks. Maybe fail. And hope to be caught by grace in the end.  

Maybe, we could work on being brave, together? 

Blessed be the journey, 

Pastor Sarah