Nearly two years ago, I was in Florida. I was enjoying the 65º weather in January (being from Illinois it felt like heaven), but I kept feeling an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be alone and cry. At the time, I was working for Young Life, and I SUCKED at it. It seemed like everyone around me was crushing it in ministry, and I was floundering. I had a group of dudes that I was meeting with, but I wasn’t raising enough funds. I wasn’t getting enough leaders. I wasn’t getting enough kids to club. I wasn’t able to get enough adults invested. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t…..
So there I was in Florida, surrounded by other staff people from Young Life for a conference. It seemed like everyone else was crushing it in ministry besides me. I was trying to enjoy my time there with my friends, but I knew that my time on staff was coming to a close. There was so many nights I went for a run by myself or just go to the gym at the resort to be alone to think and pray. I loved my friends on staff, but the more I heard about how great their ministry was going, the more crushed I felt.
Why had God called me to something that I was not good at? Did any kids even “get it” with the time I spent with them? After nearly two years, did anything I do actually have any value for the Kingdom of God? Did God call me to something just to completely fail at it?
To be honest, I still don’t fully have all of the answers to these questions. I remember coming back from Winter Staff Conference and telling my boss I was done, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I was 100% sure, I just didn’t want to be a failure. My entire life I’ve been afraid of failing and not being enough. And it happened. I had failed, and someone else could be doing a better job than I could do. There are still times when I feel open wounds thinking about my time with Young Life, frustrations with the job, and overwhelmed with sadness for how I just wasn’t the right fit, as hard as I tried.
There is a song from the spoken word group Listener that says, “…failing is not just for failures. It's for everyone, failures just have more experience…” For me, I have what seems like plenty of experience being a failure. There is still most definitely some spiritual turmoil I feel about this and am still processing through/dealing with, but I think that I have learned that it’s ok to be a failure.
Throughout history, there has been many “great failures”. Moses (from the Bible) did not make it to The Promised Land with the people he had been leading for 40 years. Abraham Lincoln owned a store that went under due to (in the words of Oscar, via Michael Gary Scott), some “clever financial maneuvering, he” found “himself tremendously in debt”. JK Rowling was homeless. Walt Disney was fired because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” So yes, I failed. It turns out though, I’m in pretty good company of some great failures.
The thing I keep coming back to is that Jesus did not call me to be the most successful Young Life Staff person who ever existed. Jesus called me to follow where He leads me, and that’s enough. I felt lead to go on staff by God, and I did it. I learned a ton about myself. I failed a ton. I stayed down when I should have gotten up, and I got up when I should have stayed down (at times [WHOOPS]) when I got knocked down. I learned that maybe vocational ministry isn’t for me, and that’s ok. While I still don’t have all the answers, I can rest in knowing that failure isn’t failing, it’s an opportunity to learn and recalibrate—and I’m still recalibrating.
Part of this recalibrating is diving more deeply into the work I want to be doing — Penn N Paper. After some thought, I think that this is supposed to be something bigger than just a side hustle. I want to keep doing photography / videography, design, but I think that there are bigger things on the horizon for Penn N Paper. Part of beginning to do this, is willing to fail. With that said, here’s to new things coming: new season of the podcast, new blogs (sometimes serious, other times dumb comedy stuff), new VIDEOS (that’s right—videos, BAY-BEE!), and other content/events (like stand-up comedy tours). Stay tuned, as big things are coming. We’re willing to fail, and excited for the opportunities in front of us.
So here’s to failure, and all the lessons with it.