Falling Short

I fail. We fail. It’s just how things are. It is not a conspiracy or the judgment of God or a universe arrayed against us – we simply fall short.

At times falling short is nothing less than embarrassing. This is especially so if we have raised our own expectations as well as the expectations of others. I do not measure up to my own expectations much less to those of others.

Falling short, however, is not the definition of my life or the meaning of my existence – at least I have not so learned it in Christ. My failure is not the bottom line of the universe – surprisingly the universe does not turn on the success of my personal journey. I am important to God – but that is sheer grace and an undeserved gift.

St. Paul said that he would “boast in his weakness” because in his weakness the strength of Christ was made complete. That, I would venture to observe, is not very American of him. In our culture, we glory in our strengths and say of our nation that “it is the best” or the “greatest” or other various superlatives.

Of course, it’s not really true. We can be grateful for what we have without insisting on superlatives. We can love what has been given to us without despising what someone else loves.

I cannot begin to share the depths of my own failure, nor would this venue be a proper place for such sharing. Thank God, there is Confession in the Church. But it is important for me, and for any of us, to remember what we are and what we are not. It is important to remember the gift of Christ, as well as why the gift is necessary in the first place.

When all else fails, Christ never fails. He is our sufficiency.


  1. says

    Failure has been my greatest teacher. Failure forces me to examine myself, my behavior and my motives honestly and objectively. Like Teddy Roosevelt said I’d rather be the man in the ring.

  2. albion says

    “But it is important for me, and for any of us, to remember what we are and what we are not.”

    Therein lie the roots of humility.

  3. Yannis says

    It is perhaps worthy to expand on what Christ is, or at least – in keeping with the apophatic tradition of the Eastern Church – on what Christ is not, within the context you refer to F. Stephen.

    Otherwise some may perceive (and many perhaps in general do) Christ as an objectified person/concept/essence of power and strength initself, hence simply transferring the expectations they place on their ego in order to find worth through others, to Christ and thus, rather than battling it (the ego) to extinction, actually guarantee its perpetual survival.

    The Kingdom has its own laws and geometry, that are akin to those of the Heart and not of the world. From a wordly perspective, survival and physical well being at all costs is the absolute value, and hence suporting and sustaining life, are what energies are concentrated towards. And yet, it is well known to all that death, despite all our efforts is inevitable. Health, like all goods is only temporary. We are all always – inevitably perhaps – tempted to equate the two – what is good for the temporal self and what is good for the Self. Yet the two are clearly not the same. Most of us sleepwalk through life and underlive in the spiritual plane, by running left and right into things that estrange us from the essence of within. It is very difficult to accept the reality of the heart as the essential one, but it is equally necessary, and in a certain sense obvious. Nothing exists without the light of the Subjective shining on it. And there is no objectivity that does not spring from subjectivity, including in the scientific field.

    A good example of this is the relationship between physics and maths. With the mathematical universe being a world apart from the physical world, mathematicians come up frequently with objects or theorems that have – at the time of their discovery – no correspondance in the physical world. Oftentimes, they appear as awkward mathematical curiosities to practical scientists – physicists and engineers – who criticise them for that. However, it frequently turns out that the “curiosity” was the very key to a complex unexplained phenomenon in nature much later on. Such a thing was the Sierpinski triangle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierpinski_triangle), or the Julia set (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_set) that played a significant part in Chaos theory and the development of non-linear dynamics in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

    Of course, the pain and aggony of the temporal self are real. And yet, they are also unreal at the same time – an ancient sage remarked after having dreamt that he was a butterfly, that he did not know when he woke up whether he was “a man that has dreamt he was a butterfly or a butterfly that was dreaming he was a man”. It is no accident that the road to Theologia (meant within the hesychastic context) goes altogether beyond conception and the sensual.