When I was a kid, I loved the Road Runner cartoons. Seeing Wile E. Coyote fail again and again to catch that beeping bird tickled my funny bone. From the ACME Company (which must have had a huge warehouse) he ordered triple-strength fortified leg muscle vitamins, jet propelled roller skates, and even a female road runner costume, among other things. But every single plan he hatched blew up in his face, often literally.
Chuck Jones was the animator who drew the Road Runner cartoons. He said that the very first one, entitled Fast and Furryous, was intended to be a satire. However, nobody got it. The audience saw the cartoon as nothing more than slapstick comedy and loved it. So Jones and his team did what any of us would have done: they kept quiet about their dismal failure as satirists. Decades later, he said in his autobiography, “We gracefully accepted the kudos as though this had been our intent all the time, and lived happily with the Coyote and Road Runner ever after.”*
To fail is to fall, but sometimes you fall backward and sometimes you fall forward. That’s why you should never be too quick to judge a failure. When things don’t work out the way you hoped, take a good look. Could it be that you fell forward? Could it be that you’re better off because of your failure? Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the moment, you still might be.
Years ago I interviewed to be the pastor of a certain church. This church owned a beautiful facility in a city and neighborhood that I loved. I could envision happily living and working there with my family for the rest of my life. I wanted that job as much as I’ve ever wanted any job. But I didn’t get it. I tried my best to make the search committee believe I was the best candidate, but I failed.
Looking back, I cringe when I think about what would have happened if I had succeeded in my quest to become the minister of that church. You see, I didn’t know it at the time, but that church was laden with a serious internal power struggle that eventually tore the church apart. Little did I know as I had my interview that it was a powder keg waiting to explode. When it finally did explode, I was happily serving a church two states away.
Sometimes failure is your friend.
For further reflection read Psalm 32:7-8, 37:23-24, Proverbs 16:9, 19:23
*Chuck Jones, Chuck Amuck (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1989), 226-227