Monday, April 22, 2013

Failure—A Good Word

           I want the word “failure” to be a good one in the Edge household. I want my kids to fail. I want them to fail because:
  • They cannot succeed without failure
  • They cannot aspire to higher things without failure
  • Without failure, they are playing life too safely

            Let me clarify. I don’t mean I want my kid to bring home a failing grade on his or her report card… unless… he or she has aspired to take a course so challenging, failure is a possibility. In that case—give it a shot!
            It took me a lot of years to learn this lesson. I think it truly hit home my junior year in high school. My dad had always told me when I was playing point guard in the seventh grade to fearlessly drive to the goal.
            I told him that I did not want to. I was afraid the opposition would steal the ball.
            “Let them steal it,” he said. “Make your mistakes now.”
            I would not listen. Too often, I was tentative. This anxiety came back to haunt my junior year in football. I was tentative during fall practice and our two preseason scrimmages. As a result, I was benched the first two games of the season.
            That benching changed my life.
            To a sixteen year old, the worse thing that can happen, the most embarrassing thing that can happen, is to be the starting quarterback of your hometown team and be benched.
            Somewhere during that two-week period I remembered feeling this sensation, “The worst has happened. It can only get better from here.”
            Strangely enough, it took failure to relax me. Our team lost those two games. The third game I was named the starting quarterback. I was never nervous again. Consequently, instead of playing tentatively, I played assertively and with confidence. I have always been grateful for that failure.
            The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Our duty as men is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” Reflecting on that statement, one writer noted that most people who have achieved greatness died falling short of their aspirations.
            I want my kids to set high goals. If they meet them, I want them to set even higher goals. If they fall short, I want them to be grateful for the chance and to recalibrate. But I always want them to aspire.
            If I want that for my kids, I want that for you too.
            In “Apollo 13”, Gene Krantz famously says, “Failure is not an option.” Okay, when you are returning astronauts from the moon, failure is not an option—I get it. However, in much of the rest of life, failure is an option.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Churches have in Common with Downton Abbey

            Downton Abbey is a PBS TV program about an aristocratic British family and their servants, who live in a mansion in the lovely English countryside.
            In part of the plot, World War I begins and millions of British soldiers are wounded. A desperate need arises for hospitals and the family at Downton decides to open up their home to the injured. Great good is done through the Downton “hospital.” Many of the sick and hurting are cared for and rehabilitated.
            But the war ends.
            After the war, many soldiers continue to need care, and military doctors request that the owners of Downton carry on in receiving the wounded. Those of Downton consider the appeal but ultimately reject it.
            As pleased as they are to help during the conflict, Downton’s residents have grown tired. They’ve had to change some things at their building to accommodate the sick. It is inconvenient and uncomfortable; they are ready to return to a more stable and relaxed life.
            A lot of churches are like Downton Abbey. They may pass through a phase where they feel motivated to turn their buildings into something like hospitals. They may even effectively receive and serve those who are wounded. But in time, they grow tired. Accommodating the hurting becomes uncomfortable.
            The difference with Downton is this: church members do not openly communicate the fact that they are discontinuing treatment of the injured. Instead, members find more subtle ways to alert the wounded that they are no longer welcome.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Value of Strong Marriages

            I’m reading in a lot of places that same-sex marriage in the U. S. is not a matter of if, but when. Time will tell; in the meantime, I have found it interesting to observe how the same-sex marriage movement has been able to pull this off.
            Let me offer a reason that I have not seen discussed much: people in Western culture instinctively yearn to see marriage succeed. People intuitively understand that the preservation of marriage offers society stability and hope. Unfortunately, the unofficial consensus is heterosexual marriage has failed and will never succeed; therefore, gay marriage should be given its chance.
            I am not saying I agree with same-sex marriage. I do not. And, obviously, my assessment in this post is an opinion. Having said that, the best way to persuade our culture concerning the value of heterosexual marriage is to offer it many examples of strong heterosexual marriages.