By Ann Chen
As a Chinese-American, I’ve grown up in a culture that values “saving face” and rewards perfection and success. I’ve seen this play out not only in my academic/professional life, but in my ministry and in my personal relationships.
One thing that I’ve grown to embrace more is a willingness to fail.
Or perhaps it’s not the willingness. It’s the acceptance that I’ve failed. Many times. And I continue to fail.
I make mistakes. I screw up. I can be stuck in sinful behaviors. I do things out of my own volition and ambition. I am insecure. I hurt other people. I jump the gun. All the time. I am human.
And it’s ok.
God is far bigger than our failures. He’s proven that again and again as He continually shows me His grace in the midst of areas where I just plain mess up. His death on the cross and resurrection give me the hope that I am not defined by my failures.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor. 5:17
As somebody in Christ, I am not defined by my failures. I am not defined by my slip-ups. I am defined by one thing, and one thing only, and that is my place in Christ. This is true of my past, present, and future.
Embracing my failures doesn’t mean that I should feel fine with doing things that are clearly not ok. A life of following Jesus means I lay down my old self and try to live out of my new identity. However, I know there are times that I will mess up and do something I clearly know I’m not supposed to. Or I will do things where I’m not totally sure about myself. Or I will be challenged to take a step out. And I will be in that place of failure yet again. And it might hurt other people. Or it might hurt me.
But I know God is committed to me. While we were yet sinners, He died for me. It is in my failure that I am able to most experience the gospel of Christ.
Failure is an option as long as I am willing to go back to the Cross, and to embrace my identity in Christ and recognize that while I may fail, I am not a failure. Failure does not define me. Jesus does.
Ann Chen is an International Staff member with Epicentre Church and a student at Fuller Theological Seminary finishing up her degree in Intercultural Studies. She serves in Malawi, doing church planting amongst the Yao. Ann has a BA in Urban Studies & Planning from UCSD, a Master’s in Education, and six years’ experience teaching middle school.