Joy & Gratitude

In Defense of Failure

Jonathon M. Seidl

March 18, 2021 | 3 minute read

Recently, Elon Musk’s company — SpaceX — launched one of its massive rockets into space. Musk and SpaceX are furiously building and testing their spaceships in preparation to one day send people to the moon and even Mars. It’s a space race of a different kind. 

On this particular day in early March, the state-of-the-art SN10 rocket took off from South Texas as the world watched. The shiny spaceship soared over six miles high, turned around, and then returned to its pad and landed all on its own. I know in this era of technology where we have the computing power of 1960s-era NASA in our pockets that may not seem that incredible, but it really is. People celebrated wildly, as nothing like this had ever been done before.

Until tragedy struck...

Just 10 minutes after completing its monumental task, “Oh wow” turned into “Oh no.” Upon landing, cameras captured a small fire near the base of the rocket. That small fire eventually turned into a massive explosion that, ironically, rocketed the spaceship into the air amidst a glowing fireball and flying debris. In other words, it blew up. Not just kinda blew up. It BLEW UP! Completely. Utterly. Spectacularly. Into a million little pieces. 

If the rocket’s flight was a 10 on the amaze-o-meter, it’s demise was equally so on the diss-o-pointment one. See for yourself below: 

Stunning, right? Big fail, right? Well, here’s where it gets really interesting. You know how the scientists behind the launch reacted? They were ecstatic! No, really. You’d have thought they won the lottery. Just listen to them.

"Third time's a charm, as the saying goes," SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker said after. "We've had a successful soft touchdown on the landing pad that’s capping a beautiful test flight of Starship 10."

Successful? Beautiful? I hate to break it to you, John, but pieces of your rocket are likely at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico becoming a home for some exotic fish and you’re calling that successful?

Yes, yes he is. 

That’s especially incredible when you factor in that the previous two launches of the SN8 and SN9 ended with the spaceships blowing up as well. 

In other words, the first spaceship blows up. Fail. The second spaceship blows up. Fail. The third spaceship blows up and...the engineer behind it calls it “successful” and “beautiful”? 

This was all really confusing to me until I started putting myself in John’s shoes; until I started to see things from his perspective. 

When I did that I started to realize that John doesn’t see his rocket, his creation, as something that can be perfect. He knows that the process of going from a hunk of metal to a taxi that ferries people to the moon isn’t linear. It isn’t easy. It’s messy. There are bumps along the way. There are explosions, sometimes of spectacular proportion. And yet it’s all so beautiful. Why? Because amidst all of that he sees progress. He sees growth.

Yes, the rocket blew up. But it also did something that had never been done before. Before it can ever be a taxi to Mars it has to learn to land. And land it did! 

And that’s when I realized God is the same way. So many times when we look in the mirror we see “failure.” But when God looks at us he sees “beautiful.”

There’s this concept in Christianity called sanctification. That word can be a little intimidating, but here’s what it means. It’s simply the idea that we’re not yet what we will one day be in Christ, but we are more than what we were before him. In other words, living Second is a process, a journey. We strive to live Second, to live like Jesus said to live, but there are bumps along the way. There are explosions, sometimes of spectacular proportion. And yet it’s all so beautiful when we view them in light of that process. 

That doesn’t mean those hiccups are fun. The time you let the alcohol control you, the mistake you made that ended your last relationship, or the thing you said that cost you your job can and will sting. But once you start viewing those things in light of what they are teaching you, and how God is using them to do so, they don’t control you.

If that’s true, then we need to stop placing our identities in our failures. Should we learn from them? Absolutely. But we can’t wallow in them. We can have remorse while also having resolve. That’s what the rocket builders are going to do. They’re going to celebrate the growth that’s happened while also learning from what went wrong. They’re going to tweak where they need to tweak without letting what happened stop their growth. Simply put, they’re going to treat this failure as refining and not defining.

That’s what I want for you. That’s what I want for me. When we shift our perspective to see ourselves as Jesus sees us when we become his, our failures take their rightful place as part of this journey. The greatest characters in the Bible, from David to Paul, experienced that. When they failed, when they did what they didn’t want to do, God took that struggle and made something beautiful out of it.. He promises he will do the same for you and me, too.

And that, friends, is beautiful.

 
Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. (Jon) Seidl is a writer, speaker, and digital media strategist. He’s the author of a forthcoming book on anxiety, OCD, and mental health that will be published in fall 2021.

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