I was 16 and I had just found out that the things that I had built as my foundation, namely success and approval, were crumbling.
I had lived recklessly and it caught up with me and hurt a number of people along the way.
And I remember having to go and tell my grandparents the news. My grandpa was a pastor. My grandma by his side in the ministry for as long as I could remember.
And there I was, with my tail between my legs, letting them down.
I told them the hard news and they wept.
It was official...
It was bad enough to admit it to myself...almost unbearable to admit it to my grandparents. I felt more than disappointed. I was a disappointment.
But it was around that time that I experienced a deep encounter with a God who looked beyond...beyond my failure and shame...beyond the facade of success and validation...and saw the potential in my life for redemption and beauty and purpose. The mixture of torment and hope was both confusing and liberating to my soul.
I cannot explain the encounter, other than to say the depth of my immense, consuming shame was shallow compared to the depth of His intoxicating, relentless grace. And I found myself interacting with a God I didn't believe in.
In the midst of failure, grace.
Jesus came near.
And I was baptized not too long after that.
In the pool in the backyard...
of my grandparents house...
by my grandpa.
He was clear in his instructions that I should not "fight him" during the baptism, but instead just relax and let him baptize me. So I did as instructed and a little bit of my grandpa's frailty combined with my special affinity for food left me under the water for a period of time that seemed longer than wise, so I finally assisted in bringing myself out of the water.
And the trajectory of my life changed forever, mostly because my failure was trumped by His grace, and perhaps slightly because of the near death experience I had during my baptism!
Fast forward nearly 10 years and I preached a message at the church I was serving in and my grandparents had come to the church to hear it. At the end of the message, I was assisting in serving communion and got to serve my grandparents and my grandpa came up, walker and all and he was weeping again.
He reached out over his walker and hugged me, while I tried to figure out what to do with the loaf of bread in my hands.
And through tears he said repeatedly, "I claim you...I claim you."
And the place that had brought such sadness and disappointment and failure was redeemed by the Gospel of grace. Tears of heartache replaced with tears of joy.
Failure replaced with Grace.
Pain replaced with healing.
Drowning in pain and disappointment replaced with (nearly drowning!) in baptism and new life.
And the lesson I've learned in the ups and the downs is that your failure can be His triumph, if you'll only have eyes to see.