Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Big Failure

In a conversation this morning I was reminded that I am a failure.   That was not the intention of the person speaking with me, but a conclusion I came to on my own.  It is a striking realization.  After four weeks of a mini-sabbatical, it has been difficult getting to a place of reflection, debriefing, healing and letting go.  Perhaps more than nine years of significant failure takes its toll on the back, shoulders, head and heart of anyone living and working in a place like ours in God’s city of Detroit.

The truth is Spirit of Hope fails far more often than it succeeds.  I am not going to say that twice because it is hard enough the first time.  More people go back to their addiction than come out.  For every victory at Spirit Farm we encounter two more obstacles.  When new souls come to the community they bring their gifts, but also their baggage.  As many people reject us for being welcoming to same gender loving people as embrace and admire us.  With every place we provide positive change and improvement in our neighborhood there are several places that get worse.  No matter how much change we affect, the push back against us seems so much stronger.

Spirit of Hope fails in programming all the time.  We believe we have the greatest idea, support from the community, and the tools to make it happen.  Somehow, it flops.  If we were a sports team we would be up for the first round draft pick every year because we always have the worst record.  Still, without question, the only ministries, events and programs that matter have come from major failures. 

Wisdom knows, in the midst of failure, whether to abandon a ministry or program altogether, or modify it for improvement.  Wisdom knows how much to invest oneself in the heart and life of another person, knowing that person is likely to abandon the love being offered free of charge.  Wisdom grants strength to heal, dream and hope even when clouds of heaviness seek to weaken, harm and depress.  Wisdom is the spirit of hope that has become the very stitching in the seams of those who work for love and justice and change. 

Sitting at the feet of Dr. James Cone at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, just a few weeks after the events of September 11th, 2001, when our nation was screaming for blood, he reminded his students that Jesus was a failure.  A success would have made Jesus king or emperor, embracing his teachings and making his words and calls for justice the mainstream thought of the culture.  However, Jesus died poor, rejected, and murdered for his beliefs and his lifestyle of bringing liberation to the people. 

Failure is a lifestyle.  All those who dip their toe into the pond of justice work will find it cold and treacherous.  Not many, especially not many with privilege, will stay there long.  The failure becomes too heavy of a burden and the water is too deep.  Yet failure is necessary, because every now and then the powers and clouds of ugliness and oppression yield because they cannot take it any more.  The push, the wind, from those who are not afraid to be failures, becomes too strong for them to remain in place.  


Michael Einheuser said...

Nice word to think about, Matt. I hate to fail. Much too competitive. But lessons are learned in failure too.


Heather Schiappacasse said...

I feel new life springing into Spirit of Hope - I've begged, networked and traded with people and friends over the past two years. The effect of this work is snowballing into something wonderful. Spirit of Hope is mentioned weekly on a radio show(WJR AM 1270 Sunday 10 - 11 AM), we have a great plumbing team putting in new bathrooms and fixing the boiler (pro bono!!) - we have great friends at Fox 2 coming in and helping at the soup kitchen, articles and interviews in que about gathering donations. Out of the darkness comes little spikes of light; small little shards of beautiful light - forcing us to reamin strong and confident; the fight is not over - its not completely lost. Out of failure, success is born. I've had a few doors slammed in my face lately - I just keep knocking. Much LOVE to you.

Pat Mohr-Kelly said...

To my friend and fellow failure - keep on keepin on. You have inspired many to great ministry. So many people are praying for you personally and the ministry at Spirit of HOpe!!! We've moved to Pittsburgh to do similar ministry. Its tiring, overwhelming and so very needed. God called you and God's Word will not return empty.

George Jonte said...

Strong words of wisdom, Matt. In this quagmire of destruction, degradation and even squalor we find ourselves in downtown Detroit, failure is a welcome guest sometimes rather than a cruel thief because we rise up from that failure to new visions, inspiration and hope for our journey of faith.

Valerie Przywara said...

Failure? All things work toward good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Just found your fascinating blog and would like to have a coffee with you when I return to Michigan this summer.