This is a guest post from Shereen Marcus - a proud member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church who has guest posted before. In today's post, Shereen speaks candidly about her experience with the children's program at STSA - a program she has been instrumental in creating and managing since the start. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Several years ago, I was entrusted with heading up the Youth Ministry program at my church. Then, a short time later, I was asked to take a step away. I thought I was doing a good job, and my priest didn’t disagree, but yet he still asked me to step away from it. But… I wasn’t done yet.
“You don’t have to agree,” he said, “But you do have to obey.”
I was devastated. Re-vamping the Orthodox Church model for Sunday School had become a passion of mine. And to be honest – I really thought I was doing a good job. Kids were having fun – and parents were telling me how it was their kids who dragged them to Church instead of the other way around.
For anyone who knows me – they know I hate to fail. I’m a stubborn ball of driven energy- so when failure happens (because it does happen) it’s not just a setback – it’s an overwhelming feeling of defeat. Where do I go from here? Why did this happen? How could I have prevented this?
And most importantly… how do I get back up?
I spent only one…maybe a little over one year away from Youth Ministry, when I got another call from my priest to come back. It seems it was time for me to resume the role. I told him I would have to think about it.
Could I really “get back up” after being knocked down like that?
God calls us to not “just” get back up, but also on the contrary, get back up in boldness. Who in their right mind gets up and does something a second time in boldness when they were nearly broken the first time? St. Paul, that’s who.!
In Acts 16:16-24, we encounter Paul and Silas in Philippi who helped a certain girl be free of demon possession. The problem was, her master did not want her cured – she was bringing him a great deal of money in fortune telling. Saint Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, imprisoned, and shackled. They’re efforts to spread the word of God seemingly failed – a complete and overwhelming defeat.
In their failure, St. Paul writes this:
"On the contrary, after we had previously suffered, and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition." (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
St. Paul was not driven by failure or fear, but rather by God’s mission for him to spread the Gospel. It appears we have a choice. If we allow it, our failures certainly can be used to defeat us. St. Paul suffered more than any of us will ever really appreciate in his mission to spread the Gospel. If St. Paul allowed failures to defeat him, the devil surely would have won. Similarly, if I let my bruised ego defeat me, the devil wins.
What St. Paul shows us, however, is that there is another choice. On the contrary, our failures can be used to embolden us.
"Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:27)
All at once- God concurrently searches our hearts and also intercedes for us. Sometimes it is our failures that reveal the true nature of our hearts. Whether God uses our failures and does something with it or does something with you, the point is – failures never have to be the end.
On the contrary, God can do something with that failure – He can reveal something to you through that failure – He can help you rise up emboldened. “Christ’s economy completely redefines failure.” Beth Moore, Children of the Day.
In case you’re wondering – yes, I did resume my post with Youth Ministry. I did so, however, realizing my heart was not in the right place the first time. I did so realizing the wisdom in my priest’s request that I step away from it the first time. And I did so in humility and prayer asking to be guided by God’s will rather than my own agenda. It’s been the honor of my life to serve Christ’s children – and to serve them His way. It’s been a constant testing of my heart, with a string of successes and failures.
I’ve experienced failure and it can be defeating. Through St. Paul’s example though, it is important to cling to God and not stay down. Those failures test our hearts, they reveal our true intentions, and on the contrary – are not failures at all – they are part of His plan to embolden us. St. Paul shows us that failure does not have to strike us down, God can use them to raise us up.
Food for thought: How has God used a failure in your life to raise you up emboldened?