How can failure provide an opportunity to serve as a positive role model? How can failure actually expand our positive influence on others? I’ll answer those question with a story.
Naomi taught a girls’ middle school class at her church. She cultivated a close relationship with the girls, hosting them in her home and initiating service projects they did together. She also took preparation for her weekly Bible lesson seriously. That’s the backdrop for a particular incident that proved formative for the girls.
On the way to their church campus on a Sunday morning, she and her husband engaged in a heated verbal exchange. Naomi called it “a knock down, drag out fight.” They left the car in a huff without making things right between them. A few minutes into her lesson, Naomi fidgeted and put down her Bible. She described the argument, admitted that her attitude toward her husband had been unreasonable, and asked several of the girls to pray for her while she dealt with the Lord silently.
The last thing Naomi felt like was a good role model. But stop and analyze her actions and the potential effect on the girls. What did she model for them about Christian living? About teaching God’s Word?
She demonstrated humility, a contrite heart toward sin, and the necessity of confession. Without the benefit of a Bible study on confession, the girls saw an embodiment of 1 John 1:8-9: “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Naomi’s forthright admission also received God’s favor: “To this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at my Word” (Isaiah 66:2).
By soliciting their prayers, Naomi displayed a reliance on other believers’ support. She gave them an opportunity to experience Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens.” The girls learned that others in the body of Christ can’t help bear burdens that we don’t disclose.
The girls observed authenticity concerning one’s walk with God. They saw a flawed teacher, yet one who relied upon a flawless Savior. They viewed Naomi’s weakness within the larger framework of the Lord’s strength and forgiveness.
Naomi modeled a high view of teaching Scripture. She couldn’t proceed with the lesson without a right heart before God. They learned from her that a vital component when serving God is heart readiness.
I’m not foisting my own conclusion onto the story. Her disclosure deepened the bond between Naomi and the girls. Her transparency and soft heart enhanced rather than diminished Naomi’s credibility in their eyes.
How ironic and comforting: shortcomings in life or ministry may be harbingers of opportunity. The pivot on which failure turns into usefulness is our response to it. If we readily acknowledge our gaffes, we model for others how to handle sin.
From “The Power of Owning Up,” chapter 14 in Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants.