This cartoon was making the rounds on Facebook and it would be really, really funny if it wasn’t so true. So, it’s only really funny. In the pre-ordination council, I shared that the most valuable lesson I take away from Chaplaincy is the experience of finally knowing what it felt like to be a failure. I meant – and mean – it sincerely but not as any form of drama or elicitation of sympathy. What I would hope is hearing that stirs a sense of empathy – a resonance with that feeling of failing. OK, the shrink in me is beginning to quibble with the structure of the words: Oh, she says, you’re not a failure; you may feel like one but your feelings don’t define your being!
I don’t like my inner shrink. She’s annoying and often fails (Hah! Take that!) to let me feel that thing that lies just beyond the words. It felt like being a failure because I was failing. I’ve always held that there’s nothing wrong with experiencing one’s failing, failings, or failures. Drop into it, shower in it, relish it, and most of all, respect it. And this is particularly important while going through a process because after you emerge from journey, that experience will be instantaneously reframed.
The most powerful lesson I learned from Chaplaincy is the myriad ways one can drift from the plotted course. Whether that course is in realizing a dream, fostering a type of relationship, accomplishing a task, or just plain showing up day after day committed to just showing up – failing lies soft and rounded at our feet like our shadow when the light is just over the shoulder. We drift from that course set in our fantasies of the life we want, the life we feel entitled to simply because our dramatic narratives seem so noble. And we agonize about what causes us to drift from our values, our ideals, our path. We think if we only did not suffer so, we might hold more true to the course.
We don’t drift because of our suffering; that drift is our suffering. Without it, we would lie stagnant with no means of determining where we are. There would be no practice of returning to the source, tracking and re-setting our course. No reason to search, to seek, to sit.
That makes the cartoon funny, really funny at so many levels, doesn’t it? Failure is inexorable, inescapable, and irrevocable.
Aren’t we lucky!