One of my favorite organizations has a practice that I find intriguing. They produce a Failure Report to provide transparency and accountability to their work. They identify the opportunities they missed, the lessons learned, and what they are going to do differently.
I first heard of this practice a few months ago. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. This is not a moment of shame, but a moment of honesty. We all fail, so it makes sense to use these moments to make us stronger. It strikes me that much of my writing, social media sharing, and even my everyday life is curated to present my life in a positive light. We all know that what we see on Facebook isn’t an authentic reflection of our lives, but rarely are we willing to be the one to share the behind the scenes look at life. So, here goes…
This year at work, I stood in the midst of the chaos as winds of change and difficulty swept through my office. People I cared deeply about were hurt. Many chose to move on to new opportunities, leaving a gaping space in their absence. The work around which we came together and developed as a team floundered. The trust, internal language, and momentum we created is gone. While none of this was actually my doing, I have to say that I have never tried harder to protect anything. I gave it everything I had. I was stunned to realize that all of my heart, my strength, my influence, and my prayer could not preserve this work.
I learned that I cannot take responsibility for things over which I do not have control. When faced with week after week of challenges and questions, life slowly peeled back layers of control and responsibility that were not real. I actually did not control these things, nor could I carry the weight of the responsibility for them. Every day, when I showed up for work I had to face this reality. People trusted me to take care of things, and where I could I did, but in more places I was at the mercy of things I could not take responsibility for. It was hard but somewhat freeing. To stand in the midst and realize my powerlessness in the face of devastating challenges was humbling, but I learned to go low… and I lived through it.
My sense of responsibility has always been out of whack. I have too often taken responsibility for things I have no actual power to influence, but this season provided a real adjustment. I think I understood this in theory, but this process made it real in new ways. It has helped me take responsibility for myself and let go of the outcome differently. I feel stronger, tempered by this process. There is something to be said for walking through the fire and surviving… it takes the fear of the flame away as we begin the rebuilding process.
This year in ministry, I found that I did not have enough energy and time to maintain relationships and a position that have been a part of my life for over twenty years. No amount of good intention seemed to make a way forward possible. I finally came to a realization that my path led in a different direction. Letting go of that role and admitting that I could no longer be part of that team broke my heart.
This ending has coincided with a new beginning. My desire to serve, to impact, to touch the lives of others has found new avenues, specifically through my writing. I probably would never have had the courage to write if other more familiar doors had remained open. My life made the things I did before to difficult. The closing of an old door has opened up new opportunities. I am learning to trust that there is a way forward for me, even when it isn’t readily obvious.
I am committed to create space for writing. It feels important protect and nurture this new thing. Writing has always been a part of my life, but I never imagined that sharing my writing could bring such joy. I always felt that writing was such a flat medium compared to teaching. My experience as a teacher always provided such immediate feedback, which writing surely doesn’t. But writing has its own joy and I am reveling in that for now.
As the year comes to an end, I realize there are some things I need to address in my heart. Loving people is hard. Loving people freely without keeping score is nearly impossible (for me anyway). As this year comes to an end, I find too much resentment and frustration in my relationships. I want the people I love to love me back, in very specific ways. I want to control the outcome. When I can’t, my heart grows heavy. Much of the discouragement and distress I struggle with comes from this simple truth. It is humbling to continually come back to this realization.
I know that love is best offered freely, without demands. Yet, I still try to get people to love me back. Love cannot be demanded, it must be freely given and simply received or it is not love. I am learning to let people off the hook, to let them love me back or not… and to keep loving. Not withdrawing to a position of defense, but to stay in the fray with people as they are. Mostly, because this is how I need to be loved.
So, I am choosing to lean hard against the One who loves me best and to find His love for my people. I will choose to show up, to risk my heart, to live open-hearted. I will trust that love will come, from lots of directions even if it doesn’t come back to me in the way I hoped it would. I will trust the river of life to bring more love, more joy, more life even as I give it away.
2015 has been a year of challenge and growth for me. I’ll bet it has been for you as well. What are the things you have learned? What are you doing with them?