Thinking About...Success

I’ve been thinking about success. I think about it a lot actually. It’s a function of our culture and our time—particularly for us who are (to use David Brooks’s phrase) ‘meritocrats’—always striving after accomplishment as the source of our identity. I want to be a successful pastor, husband, and father. I want to be successful as a cultural consumer (i.e. watch the right TV, listen to the right bands) and as a board game player. Really I want to be successful everywhere and always.

But it’s not just me. When I meet with couples getting ready to be married their desire to be successful as a couple is palpable. They come to me eager for communication techniques and relational strategies that will make their marriage a success.

What I feel myself and what I see in these couples betrays our thorough-going capitulation to the achievement mentality. We approach marriage, or parenting, or relationships, (or any other aspect of life) as just one more place that demands our best performance.

But what God desires for marriage is not perfection or achievement but faith and faith-fulness. He wants us to be good at admitting our failures to each other, good at loving each other even when we’ve messed up, and (especially) good at trusting in what He has promised to do for us. You see, Christianity is less about what we have to do to be successful and more about God has done for us in Jesus. Jesus re-defines success.

God isn’t expecting us to have marriages where we never fight, where we never wound each other, where we never wake up and wonder who exactly it is we married. Instead, God (since He knows how deeply flawed we are) wants us to allow our failures to draw us back to Him. We should approach marriage, parenting, and spirituality with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus Christ—the one who was faithful for us, the only one in whom (despite our failures) we find lasting success.