My thoughts on failure

blessingsLeviticus 26 is all about reward and punishment. It’s all very simple: If you do this, then……If you don’t do this, then…..

If you follow my decrees, I will send you rain and the ground will yield its crops and you will eat all the food you want.

But if you will not listen to me, I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life.

If you are careful to obey my commands, I will grant peace in the land and no one will make you afraid.

But if you do not carry out all these commands, you will plant seed in vain, because your enemy will eat it.

If you follow my decrees, I will remove savage beasts from the land and the sword will not pass through your country.

But if you reject my decrees, you will be defeated by your enemies.

If you are careful to obey my commands, you will have victory over your enemies.

But if you abhor my laws, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over.wateraid

If you follow my decrees, I will look on you with favour and increase your numbers.

But if you fail to carry out all my commands, I will send wild animals against you.

If you are careful to obey my commands, I will be your God and you will be my people.

But if you violate my covenant, I will turn your cities to ruins and scatter you among the nations.


do the right thingWell, at least the people knew where they stood. Do the right thing, and all will be well. Ignore God’s rules for right living, and be prepared to face the consequences. And isn’t that fundamentally what we aim to teach our children? I know our Primary School has always been good on teaching the children to make the right choice, do the right thing – I like to think of it as choosing what is life-giving in any situation. We know, don’t we, more often than not, what the life-giving decision is….it may not be the easiest; it may involve some level of self-sacrifice; it may take you way outside your comfort zone…..but there is some level of reward to doing the right thing (not that that should be the motivation, of course….). If being kind to someone feels good, then a child will do it again. If you feel uplifted after a run, then you will run again. If eating a healthy meal helps you to feel less bloated, then you will make the healthy choice again. It is embedded in our nature to live life to the full and to make life-giving choices, because we are made in the image of God – it’s just about stripping away all the surface clutter (from peer pressure, advertising etc that tells us what we want and need) and learning to listen, really listen to ourselves.

And the opposite? Well, the opposite of a life-giving choice is a choice that leads to death. Not immediately, obviously. And not always literally. But the slow decline towards the death of a relationship, the deterioration of health and fitness, the destruction of self-esteem, the hardening of a heart, the disintegration of community, the almost imperceptible dissolution of our own humanity every time we treat another as less than human…….

We always have a choice. And every choice has a consequence.

And let’s face it, we often make the wrong choice.

The fantastically good news in Leviticus 26 is that God does not give up. There is always a way back.

But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors…….then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land……I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God…..I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God.   Leviticus 26:40-45

I will remember.

I will not reject them.

I will remember.

I will not abhor them.

I will remember.

I will not destroy them completely.

I will remember.

I will not break my covenant with them.

I will remember.

Because I am the Lord their God.


Whatever the people choose to do and however far they move away from God, He will always be their God. He will always be there. He will always remember. There is always a way back.

Just like the people of Israel, we will fail. It is inevitable. We are all human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure recently.

I have failed. Failed as a parent. Failed to do what most people manage to do and bring my daughter through to adulthood under my own roof.

Last week, my sixteen year old daughter was accommodated in a foster care placement and left our home. We couldn’t cope any more. Life at home had become unmanageable. Picking up the phone and admitting to this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It took a monumental amount of strength even though it may have looked like weakness. It took a monumental amount of love even though it may have looked like the opposite. I made this decision to save my family, to protect my home, and to give my daughter a chance to get the help she needs in a less emotionally destructive setting. Yes, it hurts that being with me is the worst place for her to be right now. Yes, it hurts that I was not enough, that my love was not enough, that I could not be everything she needed.

helping someone upYou can all shout long and hard about how it was not my fault, no one could have done any more, it was inevitable given the issues in her life, I did my best……but you know, I don’t actually need to hear that. For whatever reason, I have failed…and I am OK with that. Well, not OK obviously – it hurts like hell. But I am not beating myself up. I did my best and my best was not enough. It happens. I am only human. I am living with the consequences but I am not beating myself up. I am getting on with the situation as it is and believing with all my heart that restoration and reconciliation are possible. This is not the end. It is never the end.

We will all fail. It is inevitable. We are all human.

But when we fall, we do not have to stay down. It’s how we pick ourselves up that matters. God is always there waiting to take our hand and pull us to our feet again.

As a family, we will find our feet again. Currently, we are still on our knees and scrabbling around in the dirt for strength and kindness and emotional health (and physical!) and love. It’s early days.

But we believe in a God of love who will never forget and will always be there. We believe that love IS always the answer (even if sometimes, it doesn’t even look like love) and that ultimately, love will win.



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2 Responses

  1. fior says:

    Amazing and insightful writing xx

  2. Mike & Karen says:

    Tough times but as ever you get the right perspective on things.
    You may think you did not give enough love, but you had and gave an enormous amount of it !
    Thinking of you !

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