Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Resume of Failures

I wish I could tell you that this is the best blog post I will have ever written.

But it isn't about that.

And that's sort of the point.

It's about my own mistakes, my foibles and my failures, my swings-and-misses and my airballs--of which there are many.

And before we all take this collective swan dive into this ocean of mediocrity, his idea is most emphatically*not* mine.  I saw a CV of Failures from Johannes Houshofer, who noted that he in turn got the idea from Melanie Stefan.

The idea is that we celebrate success and prosperity so much that we really have attached a stigma to failures--not just being a failure, but committing any sort of failures at all.  Someone can be--and I would say have to be--successful and still fail at times.  Failure is a crucial part of the job description.  If you're not trying and failing at things every once in a while, then you're simply not trying hard enough at life.

In church, even though we talk about being "broken" and "fragile" and being in need of "restoration" and "wholeness," the truth is, we still designate failures as safe or not safe to really share openly among one another.

Pastors can be especially guilty of this, because our entire profession is capable of being one, big collective neurosis: our bookshelves are packed with books by "successful" pastors, we face continual pressure to keep growing the church (especially in light of its numerical decline), and us admitting weakness when we may be on a pedestal--and, in fact, when we have been actively climbing up the pedestal ourselves--is utterly anathema.

Yet we follow a Savior whose career was cut short by execution.  By our modern standards of success, it is hard to label His ministry as such (yes, I know that He was also resurrected, but that was a triumph you don't exactly put on a resume..."33: Crucified.  33: Resurrected from the dead.  33: Ascended to heaven to be at the hand of God.") and yet, here we are, using Caesar's tools to measure God's kingdom.

I'm a part of that, too: I have a permanent separate post for my CV, and I do take some measure of pride in my humble accomplishments so far in my brief career.

But, in the interests of balance, here is a (admittedly limited) resume of failures for your consumption and, hopefully, inspiration:

Objective: To be a comprehensive comedy of errors of my educational and vocational life

List of undergraduate colleges I did not get into because my high school grades sucked:

Oberlin College
Whitman College
Grinnell College

Number of varsity-level debate rounds I lost in my college career: 78. 79 if you count the epic bollocking I got from the Irish national team at the Air Force Academy in 2008.

List of awards I did not get but could have been eligible for if I had been better at what I do:

Graduating with honors in religious studies
National Parliamentary Debate Association All-American
Paul Wesley Yinger Preaching Award

List of ministry-related jobs I have been considered for and did not get:

Senior Pastor, unnamed Disciples church
Associate Pastor for Church Growth, unnamed Disciples church
Clinical Pastoral Education intern, unnamed San Francisco Bay Area hospital

List of ministry ideas I've tried *just in the past five years* that totally went belly-up:

A Sunday evening Taize-style prayer service
A young adult Sunday School class
A coordinated youth group of three different mainline congregations in Longview

List of people whose weddings or funerals I made some sort of mistake during:

Pretty much all of them, whether it was simply stumbling over a word or forgetting an entire paragraph of an obituary or preaching on the wedding at Cana to a family of extremely strict Nazarenes.

List of years that I have successfully managed to lose weight *and* keep that weight off:


Longview, Washington
May 3, 2016

1 comment:

  1. Appreciate your honesty. My list of "fails" is much, much longer! Especially if one includes all of my parenting mistakes. I agree, if you don't fail sometimes, you're simply not trying hard enough. The failures hurt, but they also teach - and also give us the best excuse to celebrate success when it happens.