Ten years ago, our marriage failed. The way we had designed it was a disaster, and it collapsed. In the aftermath, we were able to build something completely new together, and that’s been amazing and wonderful. I love the relationship we have now. The happy ending is great, but lately I’ve been thinking about what God did in the mess itself. He didn’t just wave a magic wand and make it go away. He used the mess to teach me, and He gave me these gifts through failure.
Anne Lamott asks this great little question: “‘What’s the difference between me and God?’ Answer: ‘God never thinks He’s me.'”
In our marriage—and in the rest of my life—I had rules and I followed them and I expected to succeed. I was the god of my own life, and that needed to stop.
Failure blesses me with this knowledge, first and foremost: God is God, and I am not.
When I fail, I learn again that He is my only source, my only hope.
As long as I had the illusion of control, I didn’t need a Redeemer. I thought I could do just fine on my own, building my little house of toothpicks and play dough.
But slap me with some failure, and I ended up with redemption. That makes no sense! How did it happen?
My only answer is: This is Who God Is. This is What He Does. He loves us. He Redeems.
We learn this when we fail and watch God redeem.
“Gratitude in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received thankfully. And true gratitude embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not-so-holy. We do this because we become aware of God’s life, God’s presence in the middle of all that happens.” (Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing)
The wheels still come off the bus sometimes, because life is just like that. But I have seen with my own eyes that my Redeemer lives, and that deep knowledge lets me go into the pain with hope.
Gratitude grows out of hope, which grows out of redemption, which comes after I fail.
In the Bible, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. (Check out Genesis 37-50.) He spent years in prison, and later, miraculously, experienced redemption and was a tool for redemption. At the very end of the story, he says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
I can look at my own life and see some parallels. Arrogant little snot, check. People done me wrong, check. God redeems, check and check.