epic fail...

there is one musical moment that i was able to appreciate in my life that is pretty unique... 

i was able to see the musical CARRIE (yes, there was a musical made in the late 80’s based on stephen king’s horror book and the subsequent movie about a lonely teenage girl with some special powers, her freaky religious overbearing mother and the bullies in her high school. SPOILER... it doesn’t end well for anyone.) it was so epically bad that a book about musical flops is aptly titled not since carrie: forty years of broadway flops. the failure was so bad that it made the cover of a book about failures. wow.

and i saw it. 

try to contain your jealousy.

i lived in stratford in 1988. junior year abroad. studying at the royal shakespeare company. and i had a “friend” (who was a boy. let’s not discuss that at the time i also had a “boyfriend” who is now my “husband”. ) this “friend” was an actor at the rsc (i mean really people, he could quote shakespeare to me. he wrote a sonnet about me. could you have resisted this?) he snuck me into a dress and tech rehearsal for their new “blockbuster” musical carrie that was opening in a few weeks. want to see some clips from the actual production? see basically what i saw? click here. prepare to be amazed or repulsed... i watch those clips now and i wonder how i couldn’t have known it was so baaaad. epically baaaaaaad. 

when i tell theater loving people that my one claim to fame is that i saw carrie the musical they inevitably ask me if i knew it would be a flop and i have to say that i had NO idea. it was crazy. it was over the top. the songs themselves were strange (several songs about menstruation? that should have been a sign.) but the talent behind it all was incredible. some of the finest broadway people ever were involved. debbie allen choreographed the whole thing. debbie. allen. from fame. claire huxtable’s sister. all the stars were shining so bright that i couldn’t see that they were shining down on a pile of..... 

also keep in mind that the musical cats was a HUGE hit at this time. a musical about cats. that sing. and philosophize. a musical based on a poem. carrie was based on a best selling book and a cult classic movie. 

sure there were buckets of pig’s blood involved. but what musical doesn’t involve a little blood, sweat and tears? i know that usually that blood is metaphoric. 

sure almost everyone is dead by the end of the second act. that happens in hamlet also. and people think hamlet is genius. i think hamlet is genius. but then again hamlet doesn’t set fire to a whole high school with the power of his mind. 

i was so enamored of the rsc (who was backing this production), the people involved with it, and the staging, setting, tech stuff, and budget (not to mention my “friend” who snuck me in to watch it) that i would have predicted that it would have become a household word. and girls everywhere would shake in fear of being consumed by fire at their prom if they picked on some quiet little mousey girl in p.e. class. see, it had a good lesson for everyone.

but it flopped. epic fail. cover of a book about flops kind of failing.

there was a revival of carrie this year off broadway. and it flopped too. which means i can’t go and see it. because then i really would have had something to brag about. since there is so little in my life that i can brag about usually.

i have become something of a friend of failure in the last year. he was such a frequent house guest that i figured i should friend him since i was not being very successful at banning him from my life. i failed at banning failure from my life. pretty funny. FOR A FAILURE LIKE ME. we take our humor where we can...

i fail at being a good wife. i fail at doing what i should be doing as a mom. i push when i should pull. i blow up when i should be peaceful. i fail at being on time for things. i am a constant failure at losing weight. at keeping this house clean. at my monthly budget. at preparing healthy meals. at getting everyone to church on time. or even to church. 

then i realized how much God loves failures. perhaps failures are even His favorites. 

i wrote all about FAILING in a letter to a high school grad. a long long long letter. which was most likely an epic fail with the grad who received it because what grad wants some old lady pontificating about how much she hopes he will fail in his life. i am a big of a hit as carrie the musical. when they publish a book about epic failures look for my face on the cover...

anywho, here are some more of the things that i wrote to that grad about failure... i should have sent it to the producers of the carrie revival...

“the thing I love about God is He intentionally guides people into failure.” {bob goff}

a lot of times we think God wants us to be perfect. He might have even said it once...

Matthew 5:48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

however in the greek that word “perfect” means “complete, mature, full grown”. we only become complete, mature, and full grown by realizing that the entire story of the gospel message is that we aren’t perfect. we are damaged. flawed. failures. 

if we could be successful at life in some kind of perfect way, there would have been no need for a cross. much less a sinless Savior hanging on it. only when we fail. and fail again. and allow Him to pick us up, dust us off, and send us out over and over do we realize that only because we have a God who never fails (psalm 136) we don’t have to be afraid to fail. 

heaven forbid i ever get to a place where i don’t fail daily. okay, i could do with just a weekly or a monthly fail. well, maybe not. i need daily moments where my weakness shows His strength. where my failure shows His perfection. where my humanness shows me that i cannot be my own god. that i need a Rock higher than myself (psalm 61:2).

i think the best illustration of why God allows failure and how He feels about it is in john chapter 21. it is after Jesus has come back to life and appears to the disciples. appears to simon peter. THE simon peter that has just a few days before denied knowing Jesus three times. a failure. a failure that was even told he was going to be a failure... ooh, a set up failure. that is a really icky failure. 

luke 22:31-32 

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. 

And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

those words “AND WHEN you have turned back” are the greatest words to failures like you and me. mostly because they are said EVEN before the failure happens. EVEN though Jesus knows peter is about to fail. peter will fail, but Jesus has prayed that peter’s faith will not fail. us failing is NOTHING compared to if our faith fails.

then peter goes out and denies Jesus three times. his very own epic fail. epic times three. all before the rooster can crow. just like Jesus had told him. 

then the story continues in john 21 which is post crucifixion. peter was probably questioning his past, present, and mostly his future. he is fishing again (back to a place where he must have felt comfortable) but he isn’t catching anything. another failure. one failure sometimes leads us to RUN back to an area where we had former success. and then to be greeted with another failure. ugh. ugh. ugh.

Jesus shows up in the midst of this scene and He extended a gracious invitation, "come and have breakfast." 

this is how Jesus deals with failures like you and i. He feeds us. He invites us to feast on the success of His fishing. His cooking skills. His perfection. when we have rejected Him over and over again, when we find no success even in our own previous successful places... He invites us. when we have no fish, He provides them. 

grace. the only meal to dine on after a failure is the meal of grace. it only is the sweet meal. not the bitter herbs of regret. not gorging on guilt. not another piece of pitiful me. a great feast of grace. God’s first response to my failure, NO MATTER how terrible is grace. unconditional acceptance. regardless of past performance. or lack of performance.

then Jesus fishes with peter. and they catch 153 fish. i love that the number of fish is in the Bible. i have NO idea why it is there. i looked up reasons (i love google) and there are some WACKY explanations that involve way more math than i want to ever do. i added it to my list of questions for God. i don’t understand why it is there... but it is there. for a reason. if you figure it out let me know. maybe it is just to knock our socks off with its hugeness. with its  seemingly randomness and yet to know that the number matters. 

God's grace always comes in specific, meaningful, and numbered ways. for peter, a fisherman, it came in fish. it will come some other way for you. for me, it comes in things like songs from broadway musicals. or shakespeare quotes. or a blog post from someone i don’t know that was written just for me... weird huh. my own version of 153 fish, i guess.

most of us spend A HUGE AMOUNT of our energy and the rest of our life hiding our failures so no one will see them. but why do we fight so hard to do that when God sees our failures as an invitation to a meal so that we can view failure as a stepping stone? failure= a free meal. whoo hoo! if only chick-fil-a realized this, i would have lunch free everyday!

Jesus CHOOSES and USES failures. He knew peter would fail. He could have prevented it. He didn’t. He won’t protect you from failure either (or me if today is any example.) He will even choose it for you. He will use it to grow you. which doesn’t prevent it from being your responsibility and give you license to say, “it wasn’t my fault.” it is totally peter’s fault, and totally Jesus’ choice. not sure how that works either. call me when you figure it out.

but after the breakfast and the fishing Jesus isn’t done with peter. this is how i know that peter bears some responsibility in this failure. Jesus does not stop with grace. the jewish people have a word in hebrew, “dayenu” that means “it would have been enough”. they use it during the passover. “it would have been enough for You to bring us out of egypt”. “it would have been enough for you to part the seas.” “it would have been enough for peter to just have breakfast and fishing time with Jesus.” but the jews knew and we know that God never stops with enough (of course they don’t realize how much MORE than enough He sent us in His Son.) Jesus came to be full of grace AND truth. 

John 1:14 

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. 

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, 

who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

after the grace comes the truth. we get this wrong a lot. we want the truth to come out before we administer the grace. someone should admit all they did wrong before i forgive them. but God does things backwards from the way you and i would do them (actually His way is forwards and we have it backwards.) He makes the meal, gives the fish, and then asks the questions. not about what peter did wrong. but about where peter’s heart is...

three times the Lord asks critical questions of peter. three times. i think i understand why that number (slightly more obvious than the 153 fish.) after three denials, three responses of love. “peter, do you love me?” He asks this of us after we fail... “lea, do you love me?” 

God allows peter to confess his love one time for ever wretched denial. then Jesus simply says, “follow me”. confession and then another invitation. onward and upward.

God asks us to envision a better response the next time. the failure is to be LEFT BEHIND as we follow Him. there is work to be done ahead. by a humbled peter. an imperfect peter. who has been fed a meal of grace. given a shot of truth. and a hope and a future much different than he ever imagined. 

i am sure peter failed again. time and time again. just like i do. just like you will. and every time he failed, he tasted fish. he remembered the meal. the excited hauling up of a net full of grace. and the question asked in a caring voice, “peter, do you love me?” then “follow me.” peter got up time and time again from failures to continue to follow God down a road that ended (not ironically but purposefully) on a cross also. peter would ask as they crucified him that they invert the cross because he did not count it worthy to die as his Savior died. 

failure isn’t final. or fatal. what is our worst day becomes the key to becoming God’s best for our life. the message of the entire gospel is that God takes what the world calls a failure and shows it to be the key to eternal success. 

peter’s failures did not define him. he became the rock that Jesus had told him he would be. he lived up to his name. our failure do not define us. they deepen us. peter shows us that there are horrible, humbling stumbles along the path of following Jesus, but they are to be left behind as we follow Him because Jesus paid for peter’s failures on the cross. and mine. and yours. and whatever ones we make later today...

Jesus specializes in transforming failures into rocks of strength for His kingdom. for His purposes. 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, 

we are challenged to change ourselves. ”

{viktor frankl}

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

{samuel beckett}

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: 

it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

{winston churchill}

1 Corinthians 13:8
Love never fails. 

carrie the musical fails. i fail. you fail. Love never fails...