THERE ARE DAYS, to tell the truth, that you just have to wonder if it’s worth it to try to live in community. It’s sort of like marriage and family life: It’s a great idea, but the reality requires more blood, sweat, and tears than anybody ever told you about ahead of time. And sometimes you just wonder.
You stir a soup pot, and it seems there are always more hungry people at the door. You open the shower line, but more hot, sweaty, dirty bodies appear the minute you’ve finished. You visit the prisoners, but for every visit there are five more unaddressed needs. You work to devise strategies to stop the death penalty, and the state just sets another execution date. You sit down to pray, but the cacophony of your thoughts and feelings won’t lie still long enough to get through a simple “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
We live together out of a commitment to the love that Christ gives us to share as a body, but sometimes it seems the best we can do is still to fail each other. And sometimes we just wonder: Is it worth it? Wouldn’t it be better (and is that the same as easier?) just to give up? To go back to a more traditional lifestyle—one that’s not so weird or isolated or cut off from the mainstream culture?
Murphy Davis was director of the Southern Prison Ministry and a member of the Open Door Community in Atlanta when this article appeared.
You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
When Chinese kids won’t eat their Cheerios, do their parents tell them there are starving kids in America to convince them to finish?
The good news is, we didn’t take their advice; instead, we sold ourselves to China! ***Footnote: I have since been educated on the context of this sign, which makes it understandable. The sign actually suggested that crushing China was a bad thing. Why does history have to go and ruin my fun??? Stupid history!!!
I think we’re terrified of failures for the same reasons we’re scared of death, or any type of palpable ending, for that matter. Failure, at its heart, really is a small death. And who wants to go through that if they don’t have to? I’m not saying that we should set ourselves up intentionally to fail, but I get the sense that, more often than not, the fear of the possibility of failure keeps us from really living well. And really when you think about it, if you never fail, you may never figure out where your limits are. What a boring, uninspiring way to live.
So here are some reasons I’ve decided that failure isn’t just inevitable or necessary, but that it’s actually kind of wonderful.