Guatemala 2016 | Fail, Rest, Repeat

“For most of us, learning to do anything requires the willingness to fail. An unwillingness to fail can be a significant barrier to learning… Any significant growth in faith will require risk and even failure.”

Jim Martin’s words about faith and failure have become a crucial guide for me as I consider our upcoming experience in Guatemala, but also as I contemplate the long-range trajectory of my faith journey. Martin compares faith development to muscle development: when you build muscle, you execute repetitions until your muscle can no longer perform. This is called a failure point. Your muscle has pushed itself as far as it can imagine going, so to speak. The next step is crucial: adequate rest. The tired muscles need rest because that’s when it rebuilds–stronger. The next time the muscle is tested, it’s able to go a little further, and a little further, and a little further.

Just like someone who plans to develop muscle, those who desire to develop their faith must expect and plan for failure points. Martin suggests that often folks hit a failure point when they first encounter overwhelming injustice; there simply is no space or category in one’s current theology to accept that kind of shock. It’s a failure point, and it’s necessary. The failure point represents an opportunity to pull back, rest and consider what we’ve seen. From there we are able to re-engage injustice with a little more strength, perspective and tenacity.

As a recovering perfectionist, I am eager to incorporate this understanding of failure points into my life. I am trying to do that in little ways as I absorb the readings for this social justice class. It would be easy to compare myself to the work others are doing in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. It would be easy to defend my lifestyle by becoming critical of others’ methods in pursuing social justice.

Instead, I am trying to approach this material with my hands spread out and upward–ready to receive the stories, the calls to actions, the staggering statistics. This is a season of active learning and contemplation. I may very well hit a failure point at some point in this process–overcome with rage, fear, sadness, or all three–but I hope I will welcome that failure point, take time to rest and reflect, and then extend my hands again, ready to receive.

Martin, Jim. The Just Church: Becoming a Risk-taking, Justice-seeking, Disciple-making Congregation. 2012.


Becca Bio PicBecca lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Jon. They both work in higher education and love exploring, hiking and traveling in their spare time.