Thursday, December 6, 2012

Missing the Mark

Staying Vigilant

Let me be honest: I missed a buck on my last hunt out, and I was embarrassed which is why I have not blogged about the experience yet. Yet if blogging is about sharing one's experiences and learning from them, it is time I addressed this failure and moved on. It was a clear and definite miss so it could have been worse I suppose, although that is little consolation because I missed due to doing something silly and easily avoided.

Our society gives conflicting messages about failure. On the one hand we are told all successful people fail many, many times on the road to success and that it is in fact this learning process that makes success possible. "The only people who never fail are those that never try." We can certainly list many historical examples that prove this rule.

On the other hand, we seem to live in a "fire happy" work environment, where managers go around looking for folks to axe and get more and more out the fewer and fewer people they retain. In my state it was seriously proposed recently that any one in my profession who was fired from any job, for any reason, would lose their license to work anywhere in the state again. That piece of legislation failed. I am lucky to have a union. Most now are not so fortunate.

I for one perceive that a balance has tipped in our society. If the data are any indication, people, especially young men, are so afraid to fail that a smaller percentage are trying: trying to start a business, willing to ask that girl on a date and then stick with it until marriage, willing to take on that tough new challenge, willing to step out of their comfort zone and DO something. This worries me. For some reason people are becoming so prideful that any recognition of failure is perceived as a fatal blow. A society that sends that message isn't going to produce much excellence for very long.

A blogger I admire recently posted this challenging prayer, and his humility and honesty inspired me to blog about my last hunting trip. Humility is the one attribute we probably need the most. We can't be so proud we are afraid to fail for failure is the one thing that teaches us how to succeed. In fact failure makes success possible. Failure is also the one thing that makes holiness possible, for it is impossible to be holy without humility, and it is impossible to develop humility without the sting of occasionally missing the mark.

The concept of missing the mark is often associated with sin, and I want to be clear here: I am not talking about sin. It is (supposedly... I wouldn't know...) possible to, with the help of His grace, eschew sin. When I first truly came to Christ I seriously believed that changing my life drastically in order to follow Him would mean an easy road. I thought that those I knew would recognize the interior change. I thought my performance at work would evolve into something higher as I worked for Him, and I thought that I would be starting a steady climb towards sanctity. I unwittingly had bought into a strange, but just as heretical, version of the prosperity gospel, that I have spent the better part of a decade unlearning.

Here is the hard truth: the day after I had that personal encounter and act of repentance the evangelicals refer to as being "saved," there I was. Yes, I saw the world with new eyes. Yes, certain behaviors disappeared rarely, if ever, to return. Yes, I began a new journey in an, at times, radical new direction. Yes, I had someone to talk to and worship. Yes, I made His word a central part of my life. But I was still... me... and to be honest, I am not at all sure I was a "better" me. The truth is when we find God we get redirected, but the faith journey is a long process that only begins at that moment. We are redirected onto a road that may (and can) lead to sanctity, but those of us who are reality based recognize that there is no guarantee we will get there.

Despite all of our best intentions, our hard work, and our preparation, failure can and will occur. This is as true with archery as it is with life, and we can't quit or be so prideful that we refuse to acknowledge a failure.

So why did I fail? Inexplicably, as I lined up the shot on that buck, I failed to use the peep on my bow string, and only used the pins on my sight. I did this not once, but twice. Buck fever played a role to be sure, so too my euphoria at successfully rattling and grunting him in contributed to this momentary lack of concentration. I have easily practiced that shot 100 times... and I missed.

I doubt it is a mistake I will ever make again, which is why it is failure that teaches us how to succeed. Remember this while navigating our humility bereft culture: when someone shares with you their successes they are not sharing the failures they went through on the way. America loves a "winner." The message that is being lost is that to be a winner you first have to fall on your face many times. Too many of us are too prideful to risk it.


  1. success has nothing to teach us. Failure teaches us a great deal. you didn't miss the mark, but hit the bull's eye with this blog.


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