One member of the Christian fellowship group in my college days, also named George, protected himself from failing by pretending not to try. His favorite saying was “How can you lose something you never ever had?” We never quite believed him because he was getting pretty good grades in his electrical engineering major. Apparently, however, he thought if he could lower expectations (his parents’? ours? his own?) enough, he would never have to risk feeling like a failure.

Jesus told his “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) to make it clear that he didn’t accept the attitude of my friend George. In the story, a prosperous landowner prepares to go on an extended journey by entrusting considerable amounts of money to three associates. To one he gave “five talents” (many thousands of dollars), to the second, “two talents” (less than half the amount, but still a lot) and to the third, “one talent” (even less, but still a respectable portfolio). The amounts entrusted varied, “to each according to his ability.” Well, the first two associates managed the money well enough to double their totals. The third, however, refused to risk failure and just held on to the one talent entrusted to him. In his story, Jesus praises the first two for investing the money wisely, but he condemns the third for not attempting to increase his one talent through investment. The landowner in the parable knew in advance that the third man had a very cautious, even fearful, approach to life, and that’s why he didn’t give him as much money to manage. Clearly, Jesus was trying to teach his followers to stretch themselves in goal-setting, even if it means risking failure. The only real failure is not trying.

During our current sermon series, “Life After Failure,” we’ve invited people to tell their failure stories. We suggested this be done anonymously, to encourage sharing by people who are still in the failure phase and have no success story to conclude with. However, the first four people who have responded have all wanted to express themselves openly, and we feel their particular stories are best told in their own way. We’ve decided to do this through ABC’s closed Facebook group. Today we’ll be posting experiences shared by Matt Bassett and Rob Ottaviano, and we invite you to read and interact with “Life After Failure” stories there. If you ask to join that group, we’ll make sure all Messenger readers are accepted. If you are not on Facebook, you may call the church office and ask for printed copies of these stories.

Meanwhile, those of you whose failure stories still don’t have a happy ending are invited to contact one of ABC’s pastor by phone or by email to share anonymously. Your unfinished story may give hope to someone else slogging through one of life’s failure swamps.

Above all, don’t be like my old friend George and say “How can you lose something you never ever had?”