can – verb | \kən, ˈkan also ˈken; dial ˈkin\
: to know how to
On Sunday, my church celebrated 50 years at our current location. The church itself, the ongoing stream of people worshipping together year after year, is more than 180 years old. Both milestones feel significant to me, since both exceed the entirety of my life.
One of our former pastors, David Byrum, preached during the Sunday morning service, and the title of his sermon was “They Did So We Can.” He explained the principle in two ways. First, because our spiritual fathers and mothers made the sacrifice and had the courage to build a new building in what then was the far edge of town, we can worship and fellowship and serve here now. But he also meant the phrase this way: if they could do it, then so can we.
Reverend Byrum wasn’t talking about building a new church building for us, though. He was talking about whatever it is that we’re facing but lack the courage to do. If they can do that, he said, then we can do whatever it is God is calling us to.
This isn’t just a call to look backwards at our ancestors either, though they certainly have left us a legacy of perseverance and courage. We can also look around us at our friends, family, neighbors, children, and even strangers to see others accomplishing remarkable feats and enduring unimaginable hardship. Every time we ask ourselves, “How did they do that?” we can also remember, “They did so we can.”
Life has been ramping up for me over the past few weeks. We’ve made some changes to the way we organize our family, I’m expanding and growing my business, I’m taking on new responsibilities at church, and I’m also still trying to be a good wife, stepmother, daughter, and friend. Many times recently, I’ve said to myself, “Who do I think I am? I can’t do this.” It’s doubt, mixed with fear, plus a little imposter syndrome for good measure.
Some of what I am called to do now just comes with being part of a family and having relationships with others. Some of what I am called to feels more like an actual calling. And nothing I am doing is guaranteed to succeed. In fact, the degree to which I may fail runs directly proportional with the my level of self-doubt. In any area of life, I might fail.
On the way to work this morning, I heard about an event being held in a nearby city today called “FailFest.” According to the organizers, “The FailFest event series celebrates the role failure plays in moving companies, careers and communities forward.” As I was thinking about the word “can,” I wondered what role “can’t” or failure plays in that.
Maybe a lot, I decided, when I thought again about Pastor Byrum’s mantra from Sunday, “They did so we can.” Because very few things in life go just as planned. When I think of the “they” in that phrase, the former members of our church who decided to embark on a risky building project, it wasn’t because they sat around and came up with a good idea out of the blue. It was because the building they were in was collapsing beneath them. Then, it took them three years to come up with a plan, get everybody on board, and actually build the building. If you’ve ever been part of a church going through a building project, you know those were probably three very long years. Certainly, they had their doubts and moments of failure, too. Yet they continued on.
Perhaps we can tweak that mantra to reflect more accurately what it means to be inspired by those around us. “We can … because they got up every time they fell, they started over every time they were knocked down, and they kept trying even when they failed.”
What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.
Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.