If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a
Listen to Sherrie Youngward sing this scripture here: http://www.blueletterbible.org/hymns/hymn.cfm?MusicID=3
“I failed, Mommy?” she said, her eyes filling with big tears. I swallowed hard and remembered how many times I had stared at her paper, my teacher hat on, my parent hat being twisted in my hands, willing the answers to be right, wanting to find a way to justify giving her a passing grade. I rubbed her shoulders silently and stared at the paper with her. Her first real failure at something that she was entirely capable of excelling at. My heart ached for her.
“Yes,” I said quietly. She wiped her eyes and looked at me…lost. She didn’t know what to do with failure. She had no frame of reference. I wrapped my arms around her and gently showed her that she had not followed the instructions given…that her answers were right, with different directions. I couldn’t give her grace…we had gone over and over the directions in class and she had forgotten or ignored those instructions. So, she failed. As her teacher, I knew I was justified and required to give her the failing mark. As her mother, I felt that the grade was somehow a reflection of my mothering skills, my influence.
There is an ache in the heart of the failing follower. Where do I turn? How do I find my way back? It’s easy to fail, easier still to feel helpless to change. Difficult to claw our way out of the pits of self-pity, denial, shame, guilt. We struggle to do something, show proof of our willingness to be right, to do right, to do good, to be good.
All but love will fail.
Our efforts, our righteousness, our works, our gifts…all of this fails. But love does not. And not any sort of love, but the love of Christ. This extravagant love…
The kind of love that lays it all down, lays down one’s life. This love does not fail.
And so we must cling tight to this love. Wrestle with it. Let it wear us down, out. Change us from the inside out. Cleanse us and purify us with fire. Love doesn’t fail.
And the whys of the failure are there…did we ignore, dismiss, cast off instruction? Have we become calloused to the call of love? Have we built stone walls around our hearts in place of His walls of fire? But the whys are less important than the how…how do we return to our first love?
We confess our need. We cry out to the Living God for mercy. We receive the Love that laid down His life for us. We marvel in the value He places on our hearts. We trust in His forgiveness. We walk forward with Him in Love…and we lay down our own lives for that Love. Love never fails.
So I pray with her and we ask to start over. She knows she cannot undo the mistakes. She knows of the consequences. But she also knows she is loved. I lay down my fears of failure as her mother and pick up hope and carry it with us. Failure doesn’t have to define us. We are redeemed.
Thank You, God. Thank You for making a way for failing me to learn to love. Thank You for showing me how to truly love another. Thank You that you redeem my failures. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.