Success . . . or Failure?

As far as I can tell, all our monastery web sites have been successfully moved to U.K. hosts. There are some broken links and so on that I shall be tidying up over the next few weeks, as time and energy allow, before I attempt to upload the re-designed sites; and I am not wholly convinced that all our email accounts are yet functioning as they should. On the whole, however, we are patting ourselves and our colleagues on the back and congratulating ourselves on a successful move. But what weasel words ‘success’ and ‘successful’ are! They are seductive, with their hint of standing out from the crowd, of accomplishment and triumph. To fail or, even worse, to be a failure, is something we all shrink from, especially as many of us have a secret fear that we are not all we pretend to be but are indeed, in some sense, failures. We devise many ways of hiding failure from ourselves and do great violence to the English language and to our own integrity in our attempts to mask the truth; but it doesn’t really wash. We succeed or we fail. End of story.

Only not quite. One of the paradoxes of Christianity is that we succeed through failure. The death of Christ on the Cross was the most abject failure in history; it was also the supreme triumph, for it led to the Resurrection and the redemption of us all. It can be hard to see the same pattern working itself out in our lives; but it is there. As we go on, we often see that the very things we regarded as disasters have actually turned out for our good. As human beings, we like the illusion of control; but it is only an illusion. We must do our best and leave the outcome to God. That is not quietism under another name: it is submission to the will of God, the embracing of our vocation and our path to holiness.

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6 thoughts on “Success . . . or Failure?”

  1. Everything is spun through a dark glass. We cannot see clearly when our minds are filled with the conditions of the material world. We see only in part…until we look with an empy heart which few are able to do.

    When we pick and choose we are blinded by our desire for either/or…good/evil…for/against…success/failure. The ramifications of what the garden of Eden points to…knowledge of good and evil…of all the myriad ways in which we pit one thing against another. Our judgment impaired, we still are prone to split things. Who among us can see through the glass, clearly?

    Our beleagered democracy seems to be in the fray of such misery. And the power of such splitting sets us against one another…which seems our lot without an awakening to our true nature.

    We know each other in part…and are known in part…we are hindered by our ignorance.

    1 Corinthians 13:12King James Version (KJV)

    12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    Even these words are in part, in the glass, darkly…

  2. For me, having faith that this very life is my path to God is of the highest importance. There are many circumstances I would like to change about my life but they are beyond my power to change. They must be accepted. But beyond that, they must be embraced as my unique path to God. I have found no clear cut “failures” and “successes.” Indeed, we “see through a glass, darkly.” Or to use an analogy of D. Maria Boulding, OSB, our lives are tapestries we make stitch by stick, and that we can only view from the reverse side until we are with God and can see the real picture. This is not to glorify suffering, only to try to understand what is imperfect seeing in the present time.

  3. Thank you for these words, Sister. They are quite meaningful as I have a few big projects that I am in the midst of. “Do your best and leave the outcome to God.” Amen.

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