“All through his life he was trying to do the best that he could. It was not perfect. But there are some kinds of failure that are better than success.” So wrote Henry van Dyke in the Preface to his classic short story The Other Wise Man.
It is the story of Artaban who tried to reach the Christ-child born a king in Bethlehem after having seen the star that rose in the sky.
But he could not keep his appointment with his three friends (traditionally the Three Wise Men or Magi) because while helping a wounded traveller on the way he was delayed.
He had with him three gems–a blue sapphire, a red ruby and a snow-white pearl of great price which he had acquired by selling all his possessions. All three he had planned to present to Jesus as his act of worship.
Yet he used all the three during his long journey to help the wounded traveller, to help a mother save her baby from being killed by soldiers and to save a young woman who was being dragged off as a slave because she could not clear the debts of her late father.
When the last act was done, Artaban now old and weak sinks to the ground as the earth shook. The young woman whom he had helped to secure her freedom supports him.
That was the time the crucifixion of the King was happening and the sky was darkened. Artaban had all his life journeyed in hope to meet the King; but now the King was dying.
Yet the voice of the King reached his ears: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” That was the reward he got for using the gifts he had reserved for the King to help those in need.
Though he came close he never met the King; yet he was accepted as having succeeded in his quest.
The story ends with these words: “His journey was ended. His treasures accepted. The Fourth Wise Man had found the King.”
Though success has been defined in many ways, none is better than, “There are some kinds of failures that are better than success.”
Our attempts are often plagued by failures and falling short of the mark time and again. Should we lose heart? Should we despair? Should we count everything as lost? Far be it from those!
Life is not counted by what we have achieved but by what we have attempted to do. The King does not ask how much we performed but with what motive we did the act.
No failure in life is final if at last you find the King!