12 Apr The Failure that Succeeded!
To write on my failure is to tread on troubled spots in academic circles. To sceptics this might mean religious fanaticism, and communists might brand me a bourgeois intoxicated with religion. Whatever be their learned opinions, I thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for a failure an experience of deliverance out of the horrible pit and from the miry clay. He has put a new song in my mouth and established my goings.
During the academic Year 1958/59 I was a student of the Madras Law College, in my first year Law. To me, a graduate from a Jesuit College, Law College was a wild place, a place which knew no discipline, and one which did not recognise the sovereignty of law. And I believed that for one who was brought up to trust in the precious blood of Christ, there was tremendous scope to testify.
I was not a poor student. My output of work was comparatively more than that of an average student of Law in Madras. Yet I failed! But, I was a poor politician. My religious convictions not being opposed to politics led me to believe that a political harmony of oratorical abilities and Christian principles could formulate wonderful leadership. The failure of student leaders to suppress injustice and politics in educational institutions urged me to preach social reforms. Like a revolutionary charged with the tempo of the age, I defied local politicians and administrators, and very soon identified myself as a man who did not rise with the sun. I had adequate support to guarantee a victory in the event of my standing for some election in college, and this encouraged me to think on these lines.
My time was not entirely devoted to collegiate activities. As a believer who had tasted the Lord, I had a burden to tell others of the Saviour of the world. The Lord enabled me to witness to some and even burdened me to pray for them. Eventually he led me to serve on the Madras ICEU. Committee. In spite of all this I had to fail.
I was rather confused when I learnt of my failure in the exams. I was brutally hurt. I saw only a dismal future, and for a time I thought that God had forsaken me. All my plans to lead the student body as a Christian, were dashed to pieces.
I resolved to join some party–some ungodly wing —which would enable me to quench my desire for vengeance. I was set to get even, with those whom I believed had devised my failure.
But, Praise God! He never allows His redeemed to go over a precipice. My father, to whom I owe much of my spiritual development, taught me that I had offended my God in aiming to be a popular leader, thus crippling His plans for my life. From a commentary on I Peter he expounded further that I being one separated for His service could not give undue importance to the things of this world. While I was weeping over my failure, he was rejoicing. He was always thanking God for having shown me clearly His ways.
This led me to spend some time in meditation. I recalled in my Quiet Time those days of examination, when before each examination I had asked God to give me what I deserved. And it dawned upon me that I was too proud to accept what He had ordained. I tried to present before Him all my good deeds: the prayer meetings I had attended, the tracts that I had distributed, the words that I had spoken, etc. and the result. In ‘a vain bid to weigh my good deeds I realised that they were filth before His Holy Love. I was selfish, He was selfless. He was not to be appeased by my goodness.
My failure was a timely help from God. If I had passed I would have stood for elections for college, probably on some political basis and my testimony would definitely have been marred. He knew what was best for me I am without words to thank Him for his boundless love and mercy upon me. Now He has provided me with admission in M.A. in a course that I could never have secured otherwise.
In my Quiet Time I was studying the book of Genesis, and I had come to the life of Joseph. His submission to his foes, despite all his powers, challenged me. This was the true spirit of Christ. The commentary by one C. M. Mackintosh posed a greater issue, viz. there was no glory for Joseph without the prison and no redemption without the Cross. Now I began to decrease in my own estimation.
I confessed all my failure and wickedness to Jesus, and I believe He has forgiven me of every sin and has cleansed me in His own blood I said that I was prepared for another failure, if it would bring me into closer fellowship with my Lord and Saviour.
The first thing that I had to do was to apologise to those who were my enemies. My apology was not met with success. But that was not, my motive. I apologised because my Saviour wanted me to do it. The more I was despised and oppressed by one person the greater was my burden to pray for his salvation.
The unfailing purpose of God through the Gospel is that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose”. Romans 8:28.
My father’s words of consolation were: ‘The Lord is silently planning for (me) in His Love !’ (Zeph. 3:17—the meaning as rendered from the Hebrew version). Everything depends on your relationship with your God. Is Jesus Christ your personal Saviour and Lord? Then He, and He alone can make your failure meaningful, a joy, and a challenge in your life. If you are not in Christ, and if you have not given Him the place of honour in your life, today is the day of salvation. He gave all that He had and shed His blood for a world of lost sinners. Christ welcomes you NOT because you have a name, or fame, nor is it because of wealth or position or success, but because you are a sinner, a failure in yourself.
As I left Law College, I turned in my Bible to something written on the day when I got admission to the College. In a handwriting not very neat, read: “God’s promise to me on entering Law College: “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them and not forsake them”.
How very true and meaningful in my Life! How very unchanging are His ways.
Oh the bitter shame and sorrow, That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour’s pity, Plead in vain and proudly
answer, All for self, and none of Thee.
Yet He found me; I beheld Him, Bleeding on the accursed tree,
Heard Him pray, forgive them
Father, And my wistful heart said
faintly, Some of self and some of Thee.
Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah! So patient,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
Less of self and more of thee.
Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord thy love at last hath conquered,
Grant me now my soul’s petition,
None of self and all of Thee.
Reprint from Evangelical Student March – June 1970
– SUKUMAR OOMMEN