Summary: How to deal with failure in your life, when you know it’s a failure you should not accept.

by the Rev. Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh

January, 2001

Sunrise Presbyterian Church

Miami Florida

Ezekiel, in our Old Testament lesson, stands on the battlefield. The battle is over, and his side lost. The battle has been over long enough for the smoke to have cleared and the vultures to have done their work.

All that is left is a valley full of bones. Dry bones.

It is a scene of hopelessness and despair and failure. Israel is a nation that has been defeated and its people live in exile. There is no hope left for that nation, and all that is left to be seen of Israel’s army is a battlefield of defeat long past, and a valley of dry bones.

You know, there is nothing quite like a dream that has died.

In Ezekiel, the dream that has died is that Israel would be a nation, free from exile. All that is left of the dream is dry bone. Or as the old spiritual would say, "DEM bones, dem bones, dem dry bones."

We all have had dreams that have died and have turned into Dem Dry Bones.

I can’t remember all of the words of that old spiritual, but you probably recall the one I am talking about. "Dem bones dem bones dem dry bones, so sing the word of the Lord."

That music has a lighthearted feeling about it. Rather comic feeling. But there is nothing lighthearted or comic about failure, or defeat, or dreams that die.

I think that the most frustrated in life s experiences.

We can’t go through life without knowing the feeling of failure. We can’t even get out of school without knowing that feeling.

I remember very clearly how I felt in high school when I took Geometry. Geometry is the only class that I ever took in school that I failed. And I don’t mean that I barely failed, I failed miserably. From day one, I never passed a single test in that class. What was so frustrating was not only the failure, but knowing half way through the year that I had no hope of passing. My hope of a passing grade was as dry as dem dry bones. And I had to sit there day after day in a class in which I had no hope.

I’ve had worse failures, involving more important things that geometry, but I think what makes geometry stand out in my mind is that I was so aware of how hopeless the situation was. Life normally does not give you a report card every six weeks to tell you how hopeless things really are.

Now failure is a part of life. There is nothing wrong with failure. It happens. And some things were not meant to be. We cannot succeed at EVERY thing.

One of the good things about young children playing baseball is that it teaches them how to handle failure.

In baseball, no one bats a .1000, which is a perfect record, having a hit for every time you go to bat.

Actually, I had an uncle who was a professional baseball player. In his last season, he batted .1000. Of course, he only went to bat once, and he just so happened to have had a hit that one time at bat. Most players in most seasons go to bat many times, and there will always be times when they don t get a hit. A batting average of .250 is good, which means that 25% percent of the time that you go to bat, you get a hit. In other words, having three failures for every one success is a good, acceptable performance.

You cannot succeed at everything. There will be failures. And yet, there are some dreams that we have that we do not want to see dry up in failure. Some dreams do not deserve to become dem dry bones in the valleys of our lives.

For some, it is the dream of having children.

For others it is to have a stronger, healthier family.

For others, it is the dream of being effective at work.

For others, it is the dream of being sober after years of alcoholism.

For others, it is the dream of self acceptance.

For others, it may involve a more global concern, such as protecting the environment or helping feed the poor or bring about world peace.

There are all sorts of dreams that we have for our lives. And while failure is a part of life, some dreams are such that we do not want to see them lay lifeless like a pile of dem dry bones.

In Ezekiel, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, there is a dream that

lies dead. It is the dream of a national homeland for Israel, a restoration of the nation of Israel.

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