Next Time

One time…
I felt God urging me to turn and talk to a person behind me in line at Kohl’s during Christmas. To see how I could bless her. I didn’t want to, so I literally said, “No,” in my head. To God. Almighty. The Creator of Heaven and Earth. (You really shouldn’t say no to Him.) I immediately felt conviction for it, of course, and I had time to change my mind and obey. Plenty of time, really, since it was Christmas and the line was looooong. Still resolved not to talk to her, however, I made up a new plan about how I could just buy a gift card for whomever ended up behind me when my cashier became available for the next customer. (You really shouldn’t try to bargain with Him, either.) Hey, it could end up being her, if that’s what God really wanted. Well, it didn’t, and it wasn’t. God didn’t want me to give her — or anyone — a gift card; He wanted me to talk to that one woman behind me. Sadly, I was too fearful of looking weird to her, of not knowing what to say.

Failure.

One time…
In college, a history professor went on a rant about how the Bible was not true history — that it was mostly myth and couldn’t be trusted. That stance itself is myth, and I knew it, but I was 20-ish, while he was Dr. somebody who had studied history for years. An older student did offer a dissenting opinion while I inwardly cheered, but then the professor quickly shot him down. I stayed silent. I was too fearful of being embarrassed in front of everyone because I wouldn’t have all the answers.

Failure.

One time…
A woman was going on and on about the importance of good deeds, saying how I was making her cry because of how good I was. She told me that she tapes Ellen every day because she’s just so touched at the woman’s charity. When she asked me why I was doing such-and-such, I told her that I was just trying to be a blessing. Then she told me how great it was and that her father had been a preacher. He’d always said that “it didn’t matter what you believed, as long as you believed.” My spirit objected, but my mouth stayed shut. Never did I say that I was doing such-and-such because of what Christ did for me. Never did I take the obviously free opening and correct her preacher father’s “theology.” Never. I left her, someone with a sensitive, servant’s heart, at the feet of Ellen Degeneres because I was too fearful of having an awkward conversation.

Failure.

One time…
I was sitting on the studio floor before yoga class began, reading Don Quixote. (Yes, I regularly read books that people typically only read in school. I’m currently reading The Scarlet Letter. Former English teacher here.) Anyhow, I was about 15 minutes early, and so were two or three others. The instructor walked in, her usual effervescent self, saying hello to the others. (Maybe to me, too, but she knew them personally, which I’d previously figured out, so I kept my nose in my book and tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore their chatter and continue reading.) She talked about her gratitude journal, and shared a page with one of the ladies who went on about how profound it was.  Still trying to ignore them, I re-read the same paragraph for the third time, annoyed. Suddenly, the instructor jumped up, clapped her hands, and exclaimed to the room, “Oh! Do you all want to see a picture of God’s face?!” Now this caught my attention, mostly because she generally talked about gratitude toward the “universe,” and her mentioning God really surprised me, but also because I did want to see a picture of God’s face, but I didn’t think she had one. Still desiring to stay under the radar — my M.O. — I kept my eyes steadied on my book, waiting for an opportune moment to catch a peek at whatever picture she was touting. I never did, but I didn’t need to anyway. In response to a couple of “Aww!”s, she explained that it was her grandbaby. And “what could be a better picture of God?”

I was stunned. I literally stopped breathing. My spirit screamed inside of me, and I felt like I was going to explode. I know I hear blasphemy all the time, but I’d never heard anything so blatant. I wasn’t angry; I was really alarmed and horrified. But I did nothing. Although I don’t know precisely what God wanted me to do or say, since I didn’t really ask Him, nothing certainly wasn’t it. And I knew it. I was too fearful of the response to do anything; I feared men over God. I didn’t even walk out. 

Failure.

The enemy tells me that I’m shy, and that that’s okay. That I can stay true to what I believe personally and stay quiet. God made me an introvert. It’s just my personality. It would be great if I were outgoing, but I’m just not. That’s fine, too. I am who I am, and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.

That is a lie. He’s distorting the truth. I’m incredibly embarrassed and humbled to admit that, despite my boldness behind a computer screen, I have so often kept my mouth shut when I knew — I knew — God was telling me to speak up. I have embraced the lie that my personality gives me a free pass, and I have accepted it as my excuse for disobedience.

I have failed — a lot. I struggle immensely with this. God, however, is bigger. My introversion, while it’s a fact of my God-given personality and is not a deficiency, must not be the crutch I so readily make it into. It’s okay to be shy, but it’s not okay to be disobedient. The enemy wants to use my record of failures as evidence to keep me from ever obeying God in this way, but I know that I’ll never be any use to the Kingdom if I don’t let go of my failures and trust God. I must forget the past and look ahead to so many possibilities of success next time!

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV)

This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted at Peter Pollock’s blog.  Go there and read other submissions on the word “failures.”

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10 thoughts on “Next Time

  1. I, too, am an introvert and many times I “fail” by not speaking up or defending someone or speaking to people who are in a line at a store behind me. It’s in those times that I fail, but I know that if I seek God more deliberately and intently, I can go beyond myself to speak on the matters that God is most concerned about.

  2. Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh truly is changing my introverted little life. When you have the time (or the inclination), please check into it. It’s not only helping me understand introversion and how to serve as an introvert more effectively, but also is helping me understand extroversion better. I am understanding why all of the extroverts in my life behave the way they do (instead of just saying, “Oh, they’re just extroverts and that means they’re always going to be a certain level of annoying.” Ha!).

    Also, are you reading The Scarlet Letter for the first time? I adore that book. I read it in high school, twice for college, tutored a high school student with it, and taught it two years ago. It’s my favorite book to teach!

    • Thanks! I have noticed comments you’ve made about that book here and there around the interwebs, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind. I am interested in reading it at some point!

      And I’m reading The Scarlet Letter for the second time. Haven’t read it since 11th grade English class! I remember loving it! Currently, however, I’m wishing he’d done more with the story. Filled it out a little more, I guess. I still like it a lot, but not as much as I remember liking it. (Perhaps my only being able to sit down and read it every few days is part of the problem!)

      • I agree. Hawthorne certainly could have done much more with the story. That actually would make for a fun creative writing assignment if I ever get to teach the book again.

        Also, you may practice being bold with me in person. I might even start saying stupid stuff around you just to see if you’ll take the bait…

        • Haha fun for you! I don’t know whether teenagers would agree and call it “fun”!

          I will take the bait! And I’ll probably say, “That was stupid, and you know it.” 🙂

  3. Next time is what I too have often said, but now it has been revealed as to what we need to do NEXT time. So what if we are embarrased. If God is telling us to do something, we will not fail him but will say “This Time I will.”

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