Why do you feel like a Christian failure?


FailLaneThis week, I visited a Toastmasters Club for the first time. I was enchanted by their step-by-step program for turning ordinary people into outstanding speakers and leaders. You get regular practice in presenting increasingly challenging speeches ; you try speaking off-the-cuff; you accept growing responsibilities as a mentor and leader.

And the very structure of the meetings help to train you toward your goals:

  • Each step toward or away from the lectern starts with a handshake and the appropriate greeting or thanks.
  • A designated Grammarian counts every attendees’ every “umm,” “ah,” and “err”, to help you become more precise in your speaking.
  • Each speech receives a review by an evaluator — who also will be evaluated on the quality of their evaluation. Those give the evaluators experience in providing good evaluations to employees, as well.

By the time you’ve finished more than 30 speaking challenges to attain your second communications competency, you might be competing statewide. You certainly will know that you’ve accomplished the goals you set.

But Christians don’t have a stepped series of competencies to check off. They don’t get skilled evaluations of their current status. They don’t even have a clear set of SMART goals to move toward. And as a result, it seems like most of my Christian friends have a deep-rooted insecurity about their “success” as believers.

Have they done enough? Are they acceptable to God? They all seem to feel like they’re failing.

And they’re right. None of us ever does enough to make ourselves acceptable to God. And yet, hearing that “Jesus paid it all” and we’re only part of God’s community because of what Jesus did for us leaves us feeling as unworthy and embarrassed as that kid who gets a trophy just for showing up, when she knows she really sucks at sports.

Here’s the unvarnished, totally embarrassing truth: Jesus paid it all because you’re a failure. You don’t even have what it takes to pay it. So live with it. Get over it. And then do whatever small things you can manage to do to put a smile on his face.

And every time you fail, remember: Jesus already knows you’re a failure. And still, he hasn’t given you a little plastic trophy to make you feel better about it. Instead, he’s welcomed you into his home, and offered to teach you how to rule with him, and wants you to walk through this life with him. He doesn’t give a rip about your self-esteem, or your SMART goals or your success.  He just wants you to live with him, today and always.

If Jesus knows you’re a failure and wants to live with you and in you and through you, who are you to say he’s got bad judgment?

When do you feel like a Christian failure?

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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4 Responses to Why do you feel like a Christian failure?

  1. Very nice. I might try those Toastmasters, I had an invite and didn’t follow up. I was worried it might be something Masonic…

    • Viktor, I only wish I’d followed up much earlier in my career. In reasonably large communities, you’ll find more than one club, so you can find the one you like best, based on people your age, whatever. Definitely a worthwhile organization!

  2. reneamac says:

    Hi Carlene; thanks for the ping back! I appreciate your piece: grace not works; grace not works; grace not works… I can never hear it enough.

    • And yet, through God’s grace, we are remade into new creations (“works of art” in the original!) to accomplish works that God has prepared for us. So we’re not rescued from evil by our works, but it’s kind of like we’re rescued from evil so we can do works that will help rescue others. I love being part of God’s army!

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