For years I have been asking God for the perfect year. In this year there would be enough money to pay all the bills; staff conflict and misunderstanding would be non-existent; DOOR evaluations would be excellent; my boys would get perfect grades while at the same time never skip a class; I would get enough sleep every night; every airplane flight would come with a complementary upgrade; and my car would never breakdown. So far God hasn’t come through! This past week I participated in a “Consultation on Cultivating a New Generation of Christian Leaders” put on by The Fund for Theological Education. During the opening session one of the speakers emphasized the importance on “disruptive experiences;” those moments when the best laid plans seem to fall apart. Then she went on to say that smooth sailing through life does not produce people of depth and grit. More significantly it is failure and pain that produce people and leaders of substance.
This reality produces an interesting conflict. I have no desire to go out and intentionally fail. As a parent I work hard at sheltering my boys from pain. When I write my end of year reports for DOOR, it is much easier to talk about success. Currently we are in the process of hiring a new City Director for Atlanta. When we look a resumes we prioritize folks with a successful track-record.
Years ago I had a college professor who claimed that 3.0 students made the best leaders. They knew something about success but more importantly were all too aware of their own short-comings.
As a 16 year-old I was hired by a local rancher to help during haying season. He immediately put me on a tractor and had me bailing. Halfway through the day he sent me to the fuel tank to fill up. When I arrived I noticed there were two caps on the tractor, not sure which one to open, I guessed. To my embossment I ended up filling the radiator with diesel fuel – not a smart thing to do. As I was finishing the owner came by and noticed my error; he was not happy. It was one of those moments when I should have been fired. Instead he had me fix the problem which involved about two hours of work. Once we were done he walked away and muttering, “It’s not worth firing you now, because you will never make that mistake again.”
I don’t think I will ever intentionally put people into situations simply to help them fail. That said, I cannot help but wonder what it means to create space for failure and disruption, to appreciate these moments as opportunities for growth and development.