Why sometimes Failure is the greatest Success

It was five years ago this month that Faith and I first held a meeting for worship on Capitol Hill. There were four of us, all twenty-somethings, gathered together in the conference room of the William Penn House. In the silence of that time of Quaker worship, I couldn’t imagine the kind of journey I was embarking on. I had no idea how this simple idea of starting a Quaker Meeting would change my life forever.

The last five years have been deeply challenging. There have been many points when I’ve wanted to give up more than anything. We’ve seen this community flicker and almost wink out several times. Yet, through it all, the dogged voice of the Spirit has always been present with us. Like a little terrier that chomps down on your leg and won’t let go no matter what, that still, small voice within has stubbornly refused to release us from the call to this work, this place, our people.

It turns out that the hound of heaven knows what he’s barking about. There’s power in persistence. There’s a quiet dynamism in endurance. Something incredible is unlocked when we commit ourselves unreservedly to the mission Christ gives us – no matter how crazy, unrealistic, humiliating, or even boring it seems.

There is a hidden power that comes to our aid when we patiently endure. This power doesn’t guarantee success; it promises nothing, in fact, but our daily bread and the chance to do it all over again tomorrow. And when the call is unrelenting and success seems far off, that quotidian bargain just has to be enough.

Amazingly, it is. For the past five years, we’ve experienced just-in-time delivery of the spiritual and material support that we’ve needed to sustain this work. There have been so many moments when I’ve felt like I couldn’t go one step further, but when I nevertheless put one foot in front of another, a way appeared out of no-way. The waters part, and I have what Deborah Saunders calls a Red Sea experience.

I recently read an article about a startup computer game company that crashed and burned. The project was a total failure; the product, a flop. The team mostly disbanded, except for a few core folks who sensed that there might still be potential in some of the material they had worked on together.

The game was still definitely dead in the water; they had no hopes about salvaging that project. Yet, there was something of value that remained intriguing for these developers: a tool that they had created to facilitate communication within their team. This tool, called Slack, is now a billion-dollar company that’s re-defining online business communication.

Slack’s story inspires me. It feels like our story, too. In this journey to develop a new kind of Quaker-Christian community, we’ve failed a lot. I’ve personally crashed and burned more times that I’d like to admit. But each time, there has been something worth saving. I’ve learned something very valuable from every challenge.

In five years of repeated disappointments and re-doubled efforts, I’ve acquired a deepened sense of realism, sobriety, and flexibility. I’ve gained a patient endurance I never knew I was capable of.

I’ve also learned to be really dumb! What smart person, after having fifteen rockets blow up on the launch pad, keeps trying to fly to the moon? But that’s just what Friends of Jesus are doing. We just keep designing new rockets to see what will fly. At the end of the day, we may just end up with a more colorful explosion, but we learn a lot in the process.

That’s the exciting part. Just like the makers of Slack, we’re discovering that the next big thing is probably going to be found along the way. The project is not always about what we think it is. The thing is not the thing. At the end of the day, what’s most important is the ethos of dynamic shared learning, collaboration, and off-the-walls innovation that we’re developing together.

We’re assembling the tools that help us do the work. We find ourselves drawn into a network of friends and allies that the Holy Spirit is gathering to accomplish something new. We’re invited into an adventure far greater than anything we ever imagined when we were first starting out.

You are invited. We want you to be part of this learning, growing, crashing-and-burning process. We need your participation, your gifts, your insight and vision. The Friends of Jesus Fellowship is just a little seed beginning to sprout. There’s lots of room for new shoots and branches, audacious little leaves seeking the sun.

We’ll keep failing. Our rockets will continue to explode in mid-air. And we’ll watch it together. We’ll take notes, and next time we’ll blow up differently.

Do you want to be a part of this launch team? Do you want to participate in the dynamic collaboration, shared learning, and experimentation that we share in together?

You are important. Your gifts are important, and they’ve been given to you for a reason. How is the Spirit calling you to use these gifts to create a flourishing community that can grow like mustard seed and bless the world around us? How can we learn and grow together?

Related Posts:

Off the Treadmill, onto the Cross

Marks of the Resurrection