The Great Fall-Down
By Dr. Pat Loebs
Writing a spiritual article for the Sounding Board always proves to be an interesting endeavor. As I sit down to ponder what deep truth I would like to share, I find myself torn between the desire to reveal some transcendent Godly wisdom and the equally powerful desire to just write something and get it done. Add to this the fact that I’m not a biblical scholar and do not have anywhere near the intimate knowledge of Scripture as, say, professional theologians; therefore, what could I possibly write that would incite readers to action, or spark a revival, or communicate a divine message that hasn’t already been stated better by those far more knowledgeable than I am?
These are my thoughts even as I write these words. The version of this article you are now reading is number two: I scrapped the first due to the aforementioned tendency to strive for greatness but fail along the way.
The prompt for this article was pertaining to a word in Scripture that means something to me. I pondered this for a while and ended up failing to come up with anything close to approximating my intended goal of instilling spiritual renewal in the minds of all who gaze upon the work of my brilliant written manifesto. For reasons mentioned above, I couldn’t do it. And then it hit me. “Fail.” Now there’s a word in scripture I can get behind! A quick search of my online Bible demonstrated that I might be on to something. “Fail” appears all over Scripture! Consider these examples:
Psalm 31:10 “My strength has failed…”
Psalm 40:12 “…my heart has failed me.”
Psalm 69:3 “My eyes fail…”
Psalm 143:7 “…my spirit fails;”
This is more like it! This sounds much more like me. I’ve had all those things happen. I can relate to spiritual failure.
As I look back at my life, I’ve never been “the spiritual guy.” My life is not nor has it ever been a running missive on the doctrine of salvation. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Eutychianism and Modalism. I don’t know anything about hypothetical universalism or dynamic Monarchianism. But I know a lot about failure, especially when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, because in that realm, failure is a constant companion.
I don’t fast. I don’t read Scripture as much as I should. I don’t listen intently in every church service. I idolize things. And, according to biblestudytools.com, I’m completely lacking in the “4 Prayers Every Husband Needs to Pray over His Wife.” Oops.
I complain too much. I rejoice too little. I am, at various times throughout each day, impatient, unkind, envious, boastful, prideful, rude, selfish, easily angered, and actively keeping records of wrongs, all while delighting in evil but decrying the truth. I don’t always protect, or trust, or hope or persevere.
Don’t get me wrong: I can talk the talk. I could well be considered multi-lingual, what with my budding knowledge of German and my fluent Christianese. I can pull the right Christian answer from my back pocket better than most, and can recite spiritual truths with great conviction, feigned or otherwise. But I know, and those who know me well know, that I fail at the Christian walk (see how I used Christianese there!) much more than I succeed. Thus, failure is something I can relate to.
Now should be the time where my learned tendency would kick in, and I am tempted to spin this article into a positive commentary on redemption or forgiveness or salvation. I would conclude with a lofty, inspirational commentary on a biblical character and how, despite their failings, they were marked as holy, and that you, my readers, should take heart and go and do likewise.
But I can’t go there. I can’t write a feel-good conclusion to a narrative about failure. I can’t tell others how to live or inspire them to an enlightened place that I do not regularly inhabit. I am far better at commiserating with the failings of others than I am rejoicing in others’ spiritual successes.
I can’t pretend that life with salvation is an always joyful occurrence because, for me, it’s not. Though I believe in salvation, and believe that I am saved, many of my everyday experiences seem to fly in the face of that belief. Life is complicated, and subjective expectations of a faith add complication. When it really comes down to it, when I strip away all the Christianese learnings and teachings and theological constructs that I’ve picked up along my 36-year life journey, I accept that I am better at failure then I am at living according to any Christian ideal.
And I’ve come to accept that, for me, grace is really all I have. And I guess that makes “grace” the word that means something important to me. After all, grace is my only hope. And it is that hope upon which I hang all my failures.