What is Really Success

designI stare out the wide doorframe stuck on the vibrant green wall, looking down the long road for signs of life.

Honestly, at this point I think we all just hope some women, any women, will come.

It’s day one of our women’s conference in Honduras, which I’ve secretly renamed a Whatever, God, Gathering because the words women’s conference feel like sterile hospital rooms to me and I’ve learned by now that my omnipotent, renegade God is not particularly conference-y.

So it’s day one of the Whatever, God, Gathering and we’ve spent the day before walking dusty, rocky roads to find women to invite to come. We’ve set up tables with plastic chairs, housing glass bowls of chocolate and mints (because what else screams women’s conference any louder?), hoping and praying for at least 40. Or 50. Or enough to not make the room look empty.

And as the clock hits 15 minutes past the start time, we find ourselves just hoping upon hope that a few will show. Like maybe 5. Or 10. Or enough to not make us pity sob over the fact no one showed.

And then, almost as quick as we think it, we watch them trickle in at first and soon come in droves. We hear stories of some walking for an hour holding a baby, awakening within a silent moment of personal conviction over just that thought. And we bring in more chairs and whisper short prayers under our breath of Thank you, God because we so want the gathering to work and the effort to be seen and women there so we can speak into their hearts.

They come. They finally come. Almost 100 of them. And we have our Whatever, God Gathering.

Later, probably a few minutes after the close of the day and I crawl into bed, the reflection comes. I think about the tables and the sound of dragging chairs and the faces and the words and the hugs you don’t expect to feel so good. I think about what number would have felt like a success. I think about the moments before anyone came that had started to feel like a failure.

And I remember something God has recently taught me about the difference between success and failure: there’s really not one. Both carry the same core need for God. Both are humanly measured in Christian America by numbers and emotion, especially in women’s ministry and the church. If we launch 10 satellite campuses, we are successful. If we see women bawling at the alter after we present the Gospel, we have pleased God. Which is why often things have to get bigger and more strategized to please our own feeling of worthiness, even God things. We want to see lots of people to prove our church has it going on.  We want to see tears to prove God used us.

The truth is: success and failure are the same. One of them just has better clothes.

And God convicts me, in that loving way only God can, about how sometimes I want the numbers to feel successful. And how that is my human need to measure, calculate and assume, not His.

Because what success really was for our team of 20 women was not nearly as billboard worthy as humans tend to like.

Getting on a plane when life back home really wanted us to stay.

Saying yes to a foreign country in the first place when life is much more sanitary back home.

Wanting to see God work enough to walk dusty and rocky roads to find people to expose our God to. (Which by the way, is not heroic. But let’s be honest: in America, we are wimps. We Segway our life to death so we don’t have to walk much of anywhere.)

And success for me would be what it always is when I go somewhere and preach the Gospel: just preaching the Gospel.

And then…you, reader, who may not know what all this has to do with you…

Success and failure is something you know, too.

And you may have thus far been convinced they are different but what I really want you to know is that they aren’t and one just dresses better.

Just showing up is success.

Pushing through is success.

Saying yes to God is success.

Preaching the Gospel, on a stage or off, is success.

And measurable things might be the go-to for us, though we know deep down that God isn’t holding the measuring stick, we are.

So even if the people do not come. Even if the idea doesn’t seem to be working. Even if the response is not tangible…

Keep showing up. Keep saying yes. Keep pushing through. Keep preaching.

That’s success.

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