With school starting today (at least here), I can’t help but reflect on my own experience of working through the grades. The elementary years saw a transformation from shy and withdrawn, to outgoing. Junior High (as it was called when dinosaurs roamed the earth) saw my academics drop to an all-time low with the fears and hormones of adolescence running amok. Things improved in High School, and my last semester was made up of only two choir classes and endless hours of free time to roam the halls. Fortunately, that didn’t go the way it often goes, I actually stayed out of trouble! But all through school, the way God put me together corrupted by my own natural laziness found me poorly prepared for reality. I was fortunate to be able to ace tests and understand concepts quickly (that was God’s gift). Homework required exertion, so I didn’t do it (my laziness). In short, things came easily for me. But life is not easy, not in any of its many compartments. So, when faced with something that was really challenging, something that took effort, thought, and time, I quit. If you know me, you also know that I didn’t stay in that place, but the principle that drove the transformation is important and needs reviewing. What I wanted to avoid (and was marginally successful doing so), was the exact thing necessary to grow, change, and become better: difficulty. Oh, how we run from it, name it negatively, and pray to avoid it! But how clearly and often God’s love story defines its need. Paul, the difficulty-meister of the New Testament (check out 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 for a quick thumbnail of his troubles) describes the powerful potential of difficulty in this way, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT). I am fully aware that this is not a new Tuesday Thoughts theme, but today, one aspect of this dynamic process is stuck at the front of my thinking. It is the role of failure. Failure stings, temporarily interrupts progress and tempts us to quit, but the truth is, it’s necessary. We cannot progress without it and will not learn anything important in its absence. Even though the inevitability of failure is our fault (man rejected God), we have done something ironic with it. In the name of holiness, we have labeled it off-limits, and judged ourselves and each other for it. In doing so we stiff-arm that same holiness. If the process of understanding and putting on the life of Jesus comes when we see our need of it through failing in it, why do we kick ourselves and each other when we’re already down? I guess what I’m saying is, “lighten up!” John, the disciple of Jesus lays out our common problem and its resolution, “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1–2 (NLT). Oh yes, failure is sin (anything different from the way Jesus would do it is sin), but we’re all going to do it, and, if we don’t call it something else or pretend it doesn’t exist, we’ll learn from it and become more and more like Jesus! This is not permission to blatantly fail (sin). If your intent is to serve self and ignore the righteousness of God, you’re involved in a different, and more painful process. But if your intent is to follow Jesus, then, as John Maxwell says, “Failure is not final.” Cheer up!