A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure

This talk came from Keith Pozzuto, the minister for spiritual formation at Christ Church in Tyler. […]

Mockingbird / 4.10.15

This talk came from Keith Pozzuto, the minister for spiritual formation at Christ Church in Tyler. To listen to the other talks we posted earlier in the week, go here

One of the bishops who ordained me told me the story of how he became a bishop. It is a perfect example of a work in failure: He started in England as a parish priest and found it to be very exhausting, so he found that there was a parish that was open in the country in northern Spain. Looking for a better climate and sensing a call, he moved himself and his family to Northern Spain. After a period of a few years he was forced out by an uprising at the end of the reign of Franco in Spain. Feeling unsafe, he found an opportunity to go to the Falklands, so he moved with his wife and kids to the Falklands sometime near 1980. Something like two years passed and all Hell broke loose. You know that little thing called the Falklands war? So off he moved. He actually picked up and moved off the island. He found himself and his family in Alabama. Don’t ask me how. I never was really sure about that part….

In Alabama he had a bible study at a local church where he constantly complained about world mission. He told people that it was such a bad idea and that it had put his family’s life at stake multiple times. Miserable and defeated, he met with those folks for a number of years. But one by one the group fell apart because many of them went into the mission field.

Eventually I met this bishop in Pittsburgh where I grew up and was to be ordained. He was a humble man who was unbelievably joyful and content.

It seems to me that if you want to keep your life, you’re going to have to lose it, and if you want to be a success you’re going to have to be a failure. In fact this bishop would often say I failed at everything I did, but look, I am a bishop!

Breakthrough-with-Tony-RobbinsToday we are talking about management and control, and getting it together; all of these things are a work in failure. See, we like to think that success is all there is.

Last year I spent a week in Belize on a mission trip and one of the teachers told me this story: There are two major groups of people in Belize, the Belizeans and the Chinese. The difference between the Belizeans and the Chinese are that the Chinese always help one another out. They work as a community. They prop each other up. When one shop is hurting the other Chinese support it more. But us Belizeans, we are like you Americans. We will trample one another down in order to look a bit taller. See we think that to push someone else down means to help oneself up.

Many of you in the room are business leaders and working folk. What sounds like success to you? We live in a culture that thinks that Tony Robbins is a motivational guru. A couple of weeks ago on NPR there was a Ted Talk hour on success. It was fabulous because in it the first person they interviewed was Tony Robbins. You know the guy? The one who at three in the morning when you turn on the TV is telling you the ten ways to be a better this-or-that, or the three ways to increase your success or whatever? I must admit that whenever I hear his voice I twitch…

Here is what he has to say about success: I run an ultra-marathon every day. We have got to learn to work at our most efficient. And the big thing he says is that emotion is the force of life – and that he is here on the earth to ACTIVATE IT!

You heard it here. All you have to do is run an ultra-marathon (what is that?) and Activate Your Talent. Seriously? Look at me (for those who don’t know me I am 5’4” and 280). Man, I am an utter failure. But look around the room, and aren’t we all? How many of you are perfect? Even better than that, how many of you came to the conference today after running an ultra-marathon? Yeah, we’re in the midst of losers. And talking about losers, did you know that that is an American term? See, it’s based on the idea that success is up to you, that life is a meritorious game based not upon anything other than your ability. This game has rules, and if you follow and learn them well enough you can succeed. You can be a winner.

Did you know that in England the term for ‘loser’ was “an unfortunate”?  The goddess fortune had either bestowed you a gift or hadn’t. It was not up to you. It was not something that one could change. There are blessings and curses to a “classless” society. I much prefer unfortunate because all of us when it comes to success are such people.

Let’s talk about control: GET CONTROL OF YOURSELF! MAKE A DECISION! It’s all about the choice. Agh, these are the things that exhaust me every single day of my life! Don’t they exhaust you? Life is all about the choices. It’s about being faithful in small choices. You have to make the right decisions. Seriously, I want to meet these people because in my years of pastoral ministry I have yet to run into them. Sure, they are millionaires, but a son ran away; or sure, they look great, but what about the cancer? Sure, they have the cutest kids, but they won’t come up for communion together. The closer we are to thinking that we have control, the further we are away from anything that might actually be good.

Speaking of which, have you heard the word passion recently? “I have a passion for art!
“I have a passion for the lost!” “I have a passion for the 10/40 window!” “I have a passion for the Sudan!” Has everyone forgotten what the word passion means? It means struggle. It means sorrow. It means hurt and pain – agony – AKA the passion of the Christ. (Just a quick rant on passion.) Well, what I really want to show you are these videos and what they show us about failure as the way to success.

The first is from Tommy Boy:


This scene shows a) What comic a genius is, b) the ways in which comedians could not even be around Chris Farley without laughing, c) how we cannot help but fail sometimes even when we are “trying not to” and d) how this movie demonstrates continual failure, one stacked upon another, and yet, in the end, we grow to love the failure. We grow to love the unlovable because they are us. Remember the “BEE’S” scene. How can you not love this guy?

The second movie we are going to touch upon is Despicable Me because I think we all know that minions are cute and destructively evil (like our two year old self) and again, when we really see ourselves in the light of the holiness and law of God we know that each and every one of us are despicable. Here is the scene which is all about rules. You know the things that we hate, and yet want everyone else to keep.


Oh rules. Just nothing but a pain. I love when others have to follow them as long as it is not me. See in the end we are lost. Lost in a world where we are expected to be so much but simply unable to be anything other than confused and broken folks who really want to think that they have it together. But we don’t. We can’t. And when we think that we do we have lost it. I have an illustration of the Christian life. We all are people with shovels in our hands digging a hole: a big ol’ hole. As we dig, we get dirty. We started out looking really good but the more we dig, the deeper we go, the more filth we are in. The more filth we uncover.

Eventually as the sun goes down we realize that all along we were standing next to a cross and the shadow of it grows ever larger over our lives. By the end of the day it towers over us. It actually blocks our whole vision. It is all we can see. That is the Christian life. It doesn’t look like climbing a ladder to awesome holiness. It looks like digging a grave all the while not even noticing that the grace of the cross of Christ looms ever more over us.


One response to “A Tyler Talk on Getting It Together: A Lesson in Failure”

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