Reading the Gospel of Mark, you’d think the disciples were a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Miracles occurred and the disciples were either confused or they missed the point. He kept telling them the Messiah must die and they kept arguing about which one of them was Captain Awesome. But, in the face of their incomplete understanding, Jesus was patient. He kept multiplying bread, kept healing blind people and kept teaching his followers. Ignorance is no threat to Jesus. In fact, it seems to be part of the discipleship process. I am learning a lot from Mark’s pattern in chapters 9 and 10: Jesus predicts his own death, the disciples misunderstand and say/do something stupid, Jesus teaches them about real discipleship. This is especially comforting on a day when I’m intimately in touch with my own stupidity.
It’s easy for me to follow Jesus when no one gets in my way. If I didn’t have to deal with people, I’d be an awesome disciple. There I am, following Jesus, assuming I’m knee-deep in devotion, and then, instantly, I’m diverted by a petty fight or an interpersonal misunderstanding. I hear the reminder of the Way and instead, I choose self-protection or self-promotion.
The temptation is to be frustrated, or even hopeless at my death grip on my deep loyalty to self, but I think there’s a better way to view these failings.
In the gospels, the writers make it clear than when the disciples don’t get it, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach. Human failure provides an avenue of clarity. Jesus never says, “If you didn’t get it the first time, I’m not saying it again.” Instead, Jesus uses the slowness of the disciples as a springboard to deeper learning.
Without failures, how do I know my need for God? Instead of crippling my discipleship, mistakes can cultivate my relationship with Jesus. If I’ll cooperate with Jesus, I can refuse to focus on the failing and instead, look for the opportunity Jesus is extending to go deeper.
My imperfection is an avenue to greater understanding. Discipleship is not avoiding mistakes; it’s responding to the continual love of a gracious and faithful God. We have the opportunity to join Jesus in looking to Truth instead of our failure. Embracing the reality of failure means we’re embracing every opportunity to be transformed into Christ’s image.
God wants to take my weaknesses and change them like origami into dependence. If God is willing to use my stupidity to teach me, who am I to argue? It’s up to me to embrace the joys and challenges as avenues to truth… even if it means I look stupid every once in a while.