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Failure and Freedom

By: Joe Riffe
Coracle Spiritual Director and Co-lead Church Planter at Table Covenant Church


I hate failing. It’s excruciating.

This was true when I was young. I hated failing at school or at sports or high school attempts to be “cool.” Becoming an adult hasn’t changed that fact. My opportunities for failure have just changed. Now they are work, ministry, finances…

On the other hand, I love the exhilaration of success. The reason success and failure are so exhilarating and agonizing is that both feel as if they define who I am.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

This is weird verse for most of us to read, because we aren’t used to a world in which there are servants and masters. But, we are used to other taskmasters – grades, work, and cultural expectations. Perhaps the idea of being a dutiful servant isn’t familiar. But, we know what it means to be a dutiful employee, a dutiful student. We know well what it means to dutifully follow the cultural expectations placed upon us.

This verse is a word of freedom for those of us who loathe failure and are intoxicated by success as I am. Jesus doesn’t call us servants – he doesn’t call us his employees, or his dutiful students. He calls us his friends. He invites us to be free of being defined by our performance. He invites us to be free from the incapacitating fear of failure. We are invited to live into the joy and liberation of working with Jesus, rather than for Jesus.

Sabbath – a day of ceasing from work – is one way to practice living into this freedom. It helps free us from whatever our taskmasters are. Sabbath isn’t meant to be a day of showing off how spiritual we are. Sabbath is a courageous declaration that we are not our work, that we refuse to be defined by our tasks.

Live into the freedom of being called a friend of Jesus.

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