Tonight I find my thoughts like a ping pong ball bouncing between the words, “failure” and “joy.” And then I re-read a poem by Coleridge entitled, “Dejection, an Ode.” In it he talks about joy … and despair (a close cousin of failure).
There was a time when, though my path was rough,
This joy within me dallied with distress,
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness:
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.
But now afflictions bow me down to earth:
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth …
Nouwen says of failure: The great temptation is to use our many obvious failures and disappointments in our lives to convince ourselves that we are really not worth being loved. … But for a person of faith the opposite is true. The many failures may open that place in us where we have nothing to brag about but everything to be loved for. It is becoming a child again, a child who is loved simply for being, simply for smiling, simply for reaching out. This is the way to spirutal maturity: to recieve love as a pure, free gift.
As I thought about that pure, free gift, my heart soared. There is joy in failure … because it is in failure that we find grace; we find dependence upon our God; we find that we are truly loved for being, not doing.
Another few lines in that poem by Coleridege goes like this …
Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud—
We in ourselves rejoice!
And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
All colours a suffusion from that light.
The melody that rings deep in my heart tonight …
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.
Failure is a reality … and equally so is joy. Joy is the gift of the Spirit given tonight.