What is success and failure in God’s upside down kingdom?

Six months ago I wrote a blog about success and failure. Here is a resume and an update.


Success and failure: I struggle with these two close cousins. You might be on the cusp of success, moments later it can turn into failure.


Three years ago I discovered I have a specific learning disability related to dyspraxia. It was January 2013 and I was aged 51. It is a complicated story. When I made the discovery, I was in trouble at work and on a capability procedure. The dyspraxia has a history; getting bogged down taking A levels; staying in the library over nights to make deadlines when doing a degree; after starting paid work, using my own time to keep on top of things. I am lazy, chaotic, easily distracted, my own worst enemy. I am also conscientious, well organised, focused, and a problem solver. The latter takes a considerable effort and time I haven’t got. My dyspraxia causes a poor working memory, and slower than average ability to process information.


The diagnosis came as a revelation. Suddenly I understood what was going on. It gave me back some power. Dyspraxia does not go away. It is how I am made. My managers were not easily won over. I had lost faith and confidence in myself. The struggle continued. I gained support of people who coached and mentored me, and I found strategies that worked. Over a couple of years, I persevered, step by painful step, and perhaps for the first time, I gained control.


Was it chance or serendipity that caused me to discover the dyspraxia or was it God’s gentle grace?


Yet this hard won control can easily slip. Something can change the equilibrium and again failure can be knocking on the door. Change is a risk factor for me.


In July 2015 everything changed. We were taken over by a new employer. I like the change of emphasis away from the medical model of care to social care. It is a subtle change. The employer is keen to make us as a team of excellence and is aware of my difficulties. Yet, I feared being in trouble again. I requested a new mentor to help me learn new computer systems and short cuts through technology.


Yet from July to November I had struggled on my own, knowing that I had let things slip. It was hard to catch up with the backlog and face fresh demands. There was respite when I talked to our Divine Mentor.  Despite those conversations, I lurched from one anxious moment to the next as I made mistake after mistake.


I tried to stay light, mask the rising panic and smile through the pain. I was like a duck, gliding on a flooding river, appearing effortless, only under the water; webbed feet paddled furiously in the torrent, in the effort to keep afloat.


In the words of Stevie Smith:


“I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.”


I finally fell down, the week before Holy week. I failed. My Manager discovered my plight and work incomplete. Then came my “dark night of the soul”. Have you ever experienced this? Sleep is elusive. In the wee small hours I got up and came downstairs to read or think or pray. I prayed aloud in whispers. Willow thought I was talking to him and purred. At least someone was awake. I trusted that God too was awake. I thought of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. I felt nothing but agony and failure. I wrote things down. I had so much to do the following day. I could not afford to remain wakeful. I went back to bed at 5:30am and fell into a dream filled sleep.


The next day, exhausted, I tried to concentrate in the open plan office. I was so distracted it took me an hour to do nothing. Close to tears, I went to my Manager, and again whispering because I could hardly speak I pleaded with her to let me work in a small office used for meetings. Fortunately it was free. Away from the rest, she talked to me and listened. My tears flowed. Then, I spent the day in my quiet space until the caretaker kicked me out at 7pm


After that I was on annual leave for two weeks. Initially the trauma was so great I could not talk about it. I wanted and needed respite. My Manager told me that when I return to work, she would have written a support plan to combat my stress and to include their expectations of my new role.


I felt embarrassed, grateful, ashamed, relieved, hopeful, and afraid.


Would I remain a failure or achieve success?


And this is my question to you: in God’s upside down kingdom what is the nature of success and what is failure? When we look at the people of the Bible, who is successful and who fails? Did Moses fail because he was unable to enter the Promised Land? It was said of Joseph, the dreamer that “success was with him”, and he nearly lost his life at the hands of his brothers and was thrown into prison through a false accusation. If that were success, what would failure look like? And what about Jesus? His life was taken by public execution. On a human perspective, surely that looks like failure?


I am still struggling. I would be grateful for your prayers, thoughts and constructive comments…







About Gentle Breeze

Julia is married to Kevin. They live together in Todmorden with their black and white cat Willow. Todmorden is a small rural town nestling among the Pennine hills in the Upper Calder Valley, on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Julia is a mixture of contradictions. She happily shares her email address with her husband; yet when she married she kept her own surname.
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7 Responses to What is success and failure in God’s upside down kingdom?

  1. In God’s upside down kingdom success never is what it seems and failure always the doorway to grace.

    Living in the Kingdom, we are not children of this world, and no matter what ills or mortal wounds

    Come to us we rest in God’s hands waiting for him to show us the way.

    Out time is not our own, any success we have is His, for we are helpless to achieve at all without his

    Grace and the talents he has given us to do so. God has placed us where we are for his glory’s sake.

    Our physical. Mental. Cognitive weaknesses will make or break us even without membership of the Kingdom.

    Within the kingdom through God’s healing love and grace we pass through our dark nights of the soul,

    Our wilderness experience and find the angels he has placed there for us.

    You have just experienced a Dark Night of the Soul and there will be others, when we are brought

    Low and emptied.

    And God has gifted you with solutions to assist your cognitive state.

    Would you like to have your name entered on the parish prayer list?



    Br Andrew Efo

    • Thank you for your words so beautifully and sensitively written. I don’t mind about the dyspraxia deficit itself- it has given me unexpected treasures. It is the work related stress and the anxiety it generates that I find so hard to handle and yes I would like to be on your prayer list that with God’s help it can be overcome.
      Love and Blessings, Julia

    • Thank you for your kindness.
      Recently when helping my Mum sort out my Dad’s books I came across a small version of “The Practice of the Presence of God” “Being the Conversations and letters of Brother Lawrence.” It had belonged to my paternal grandfather with his name written in the front. I have kept it and take it to work in my sandwich box. The following words have been a comfort to me:
      “That he had no qualms; for said he, when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so; I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself. If I failnot, then I give God thanks, acknowledging that it comes from Him.” Your words remind me of his.

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