2015: Stripped

I had such high hopes for this year. Having turned a corner from failure to focus, I was ready for new spiritual heights — success, joy, fruitful ministry! January started so beautifully, with a clear, divine call out of my invented chaos and into His silent simplicity, and I was so ready for all that God was going to do in the upcoming year.

Except that I wasn’t ready at all. I had no idea what God meant by calling me to simplicity. The loneliness, the pain, the confusion. Maybe by “silence” I thought “peace and quiet.” So much happened that I entered into a new kind of chaos — a total panic. Frankly, I quickly forgot that He had even called me to simplicity until a friend reminded me, but even then it didn’t ring familiar. Embarrassingly late in the year, I remembered that setting spiritual goals was something I even did. What was it this year? I remembered it was just one word, but what was it? In desperation, I pulled out my Life Box and read January’s entries. In addition to “simplicity,” I also found a recurring theme throughout the first two months of this year: rest.

And then these words disappeared from my writing. Everything happened, and I forgot the very reason for everything. I was suddenly panicking in the waves, not remembering that God had already told me to hold tight to my Anchor as He stirred the emotional and spiritual storm. That that’s all I had to do as He led me to simplicity and rest, to a truer understanding of clinging to Him regardless of the weather.

“He led me.” Ha! He dragged me. I feel like He pulled me deeper and deeper beneath the waves until I finally stopped struggling, reaching that moment when a drowning person finally accepts the inevitable — that he’s powerless to prevent death and a strange peace washes over him.

But that peace came late, late in the year. It came well after I re-read the prophecy on those pages, which left me wondering at God, laughing at myself, and then crying at both of us. Most of the year was a wrestling match with the Almighty, who seemed to be bent on plunging me deeper and deeper until I just couldn’t breathe. Maybe what He wanted to die — what was not of Him — is finally dead. But even the good kind of death never comes easy.

He completely broke my heart. He removed everything from me that I found my identity in. He took relationships. He took away any illusion of my having control over anything. He brought me into deep intercession and then devastated me by saying no. He took Ruthie. He took Baby R. He took Jude. He took all my plans and threw them out. He took away my energy, my productivity, and eventually, the freedom to even walk. (Seriously, I had medical restrictions against it for weeks.)

He wasn’t kidding about rest. He literally made me sit. Alone. In a dirty house I couldn’t clean, with a bored preschooler I couldn’t entertain and an overworked husband I couldn’t help or encourage. I was totally depleted and unable to “do” anything but listen. And of course, I had selective hearing.

He never gave up on me, though, wretch though I am. What a year full of beautiful, messy grace this has been.

There have been seasons of my life when God has been silent — when I’ve begged and persisted and cried and been met with silence. There are great lessons in those times, too, but that is not what this year has been. This year, I’ve begged and persisted and cried and been met with His power, His grace, His nearness, and the fact that I just don’t understand everything He’s doing. But He has not been silent. He hasn’t answered all my exact questions, but He has been with me in ways that have brought sudden tears many times. I’ve felt Him, and I’ve heard Him. He’s the only one who’s known the devastation in my heart this year, and He never forsook me or told me it was wrong to grieve. He let me grieve, and kept drawing me in.

Two thousand fifteen: a beautiful year. I’m ready (I think) for 2016. I’ve got my listening ears on this time.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

By Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The City Will Not Be Spared

Stripped.

Worthless.

Misunderstood.

Forgotten.

This is how I am feeling. When you see me and ask how I am, there’s the raw answer. The first is true, or is becoming true, and the other three are lies. I know it. But, it’s how I feel. And the enemy is just so relentless. And loud. And quiet. And ready to pounce.

He’s loving this.

And so is my God. He’s loving it because He brought me here. No, He doesn’t love it when I believe lies, but He loves it when I admit that I am too weak to hear the truth. When I fall on Him and just say, “I can’t.” When I give in and realize that even what I thought were my strengths are actually weaknesses. He’s loving this wilderness season of my life because He’s stripping away the ways that I rely on myself, rest in my own strength, and find my identity in what I think I can do well. He’s loving it because He knows what He’s doing and He sees the end.

I’ve been abiding in a really unexpected passage today from Ezekiel. It’s a prophecy about Jerusalem falling to Babylonian captivity, and how horrible it will be — how God would bring judgment on the city with sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence. Why? Because of idolatry. And yet God tells Ezekiel to be comforted:

“Yet, behold, survivors will be left in it who will be brought out, both sons and daughters. Behold, they are going to come forth to you and you will see their conduct and actions; then you will be comforted for the calamity which I have brought against Jerusalem for everything which I have brought upon it. Then they will comfort you when you see their conduct and actions, for you will know that I have not done in vain whatever I did to it,” declares the Lord God (14:22-23).

The heading in my Bible for this section declares that the city (oh! that beloved city!) will not be spared, and God does not mince words with Ezekiel to that very effect. It will be destroyed. It will buckle under four “severe” judgments (seriously, the original Hebrew word for “severe” is so much more severe than “severe,” so He’s exceptionally serious about this). It sounds hopeless, devastating, rife with horrific pain and loss.

The city will not be spared.

But, Ezekiel, you will have comfort when you see the survivors who will be brought out. The remnant. They will come to you — holy man of God — and not to the “priests” of idols. They will be wholly changed. They will show, by their conduct and actions (CJB “their way of life and how they act”) that they finally know God and serve Him only. He will strip away everything that kept them from Him. And then “you will understand that it was not without good reason that I did what I did” (CJB).

I’m struggling very much right now. God has stripped so much from me that I’ve felt utter chaos in my soul. But what does that reveal? Idolatry. Or, as my pastor said this morning, “a swapping of God’s provision for my own provision.” I didn’t even know that I was doing this, that I was so twisting and misusing His gifts. So, it hurts, but it is not without good reason that He’s doing what He’s doing.

Welcome. I welcome You. Don’t spare what doesn’t honor You. Let this be wholly true of me — strip everything else away:

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

— 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Source:	http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1205a/ Author: ESO/S. Brunier

(Special thanks to Debbie Stuart, Bo Dauster, and Jonny Harrison for preaching truth.)

Reflecting on Year Two of Homemaking

On June 4, I “celebrated” (okay, acknowledged) my two-year anniversary as a full-time homemaker! I realized it was a little late to get a post out on time, which I regret, but, you know, who cares? I’m just glad that I have the date marked down to observe! I got over the regret quickly and resolved to think about what I shared on my one-year anniversary, and what goals I should make now.

A quick list of my goals a year ago:checkbox checked

  • Exercising
  • Limiting computer use
  • Getting out of the house
  • Serving

[If you want more details about these goals (or what I actually termed “a few things that I still really suck at”), check out that post at the link above. ]

Okay I’m going to get real here. I completely forgot about this post listing things I suck(ed) at. Completely. Yet I’ve met or at least made progress on all of them! God is so good, and this is why everyone should journal! If I hadn’t had this post from a year ago to reference, I would have completely missed God’s specific answers to my prayers. Consequently, I would have failed to praise Him for His sovereignty, wisdom, and tenderness in leading me through these areas of growth!

A year ago, I called myself the pillsbury doughmom. I couldn’t figure out a workable plan for exercise with so much other stuff going on (namely, my son not napping well). Today, I ran more miles than I would have ever thought possible at one time (for me) — my personal best! My right hip is aching, and I am pretty sure I’ve developed arthritis in my left knee because of all this running, but I have probably never been this healthy in my life. Although I only run 2-3 times a week, it’s part of my routine that I’ve come to crave. I don’t exactly enjoy it, but I need it. I feel the difference in my body and in my general emotional well-being.

A year ago, I struggled with getting sucked in to Facebook and blog-reading. Today, I still struggle with that a bit here and there, but tremendously less so than a year ago. I simply don’t have time. (You may have noticed that I almost never blog; this is also because I don’t have time!) My son, now nearly two years old, is so busy that it’s impossible to be on the computer like I used to be. This is a great thing! How much more important and rewarding is it to invest in exploring outside, or singing and dancing together to extremely loud music, or reading THE truck book again (“Mamma! Read it!”), or wrestling, or tickling, or chasing, or spinning, or running, or hiding-and-seeking, or ______. Infinitely. Infinitely more important and rewarding.

A year ago, I was a slave to my baby’s schedule and never wanted to deal with all the packing up and planning that went into leaving the house. Today, there is rarely a day when we DON’T go somewhere! Granted, hauling a two-year-old is easier than hauling an infant, in my opinion, but this is definitely somewhere I’ve intentionally grown. I found story times, and we go twice a week. I joined a gym that has an AWESOME kids’ club, and we go two or three times a week. We go to the park (a lot) and to the zoo and to play dates. Today, I find this section from last year’s post a little prophetic:

I have a feeling that my little boy might be all critters and baseball and dirt like his daddy, so I need to do my part in not confining him to the house. How boring for a little boy anyway! We need to get out into the wide world, meeting people and getting our toes dirty.

That he is, and that we have! This introverted reader/writer is way out of her comfort zone with all this activity, but she has to admit that it is pretty fun.

And a year ago, I recognized how I wasn’t serving others outside of my immediate family. Today, serving my church is a major part of my life. I’ve grown in teaching and discipleship, and I’m very active in serving the women’s ministry and in the nursery. I’ve participated once in a neighborhood outreach where we brought food and hope to those in need, and it was a profound experience for me. I hope to go again. As I connect with people through the gym and the library, I’m praying for ways to encourage new friends and show them Whom I serve and why. Recently, we purchased a zoo pass that allows us to bring a guest for free. The idea was both to save money and to use it as a ministry. I’ve gone a few times and invited mom-friends, and I hope to be able to use this to reach out to new mom-friends I don’t know that well. As a result of reading a really amazing book called Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, I am getting bolder in simply being a Jesus-follower publicly. To know what I mean by that, read the book. 🙂 Although I’m far from having “arrived” in the area of service, I’m undoubtedly growing.

Year Two? A success! Praise God for His faithfulness! Come back soon to read about my goals for Year Three.

The Day I Drove Past Jesus

This was originally posted on an old blog of mine on July 31, 2008. It’s copied again here in its entirety as part of a series on the homeless. It is very hard for me to re-post this without edits, as it reveals a dark and judgmental heart. I can’t believe how honest I was the first time I posted this, but I’m trying to be inspired by my 2008, apparently courageous self. 

If you haven’t yet read my post about Jesus walking up to my car, I would like to pause and ask you to do so first.  I know that it’s kind of a long post, but that’s because it’s kind of important to me.  I hope you don’t mind the time investment.  This post is meant as a sequel to that one and I think it just makes sense to read them in order.  I’ll try to keep this one significantly shorter to make up for the other one.  🙂

So Jesus walked up to my car in Miami a little less than a year ago.  He was a filthy, possibly drunk, homeless man, but I already told you about that.  What I didn’t tell you about was that roughly a month ago, Jesus was in San Antonio and He was a lesbian beggar.  Let me back up a little.

After insulting Jesus in Miami, I had a serious change of heart.  That moment affected me in ways I can’t even begin to explain, even though I attempted to in the post.  (I’m still not happy with how I told it.)  Anyway, I decided that the best thing to do would be to get gift cards to Subway and hand them out.  If they’re really hungry, they can eat.  And as a bonus, it really was pretty healthy food.  Some hobos appreciated it and asked God to bless me while some refused it completely.  That’s okay.

Fast forward to San Antonio.  I really just didn’t expect to see homeless people here; I don’t know why.  I guess I associated them with Miami and thought things would be peachy here.  I mean – this is Texas, after all.  So, I have not kept up with my Subway gift cards, nor have I paid any attention to homeless people at all.

Therefore, at the intersection of Huebner and Babcock, when I saw a rather masculine-looking bum with a buzz cut, camo pants, and breasts, I did not have the upwelling of compassion I had become accustomed to in Miami.  Here was my actual thought process as I approached the intersection: “Is he holding a sign?  Wonder if he’s creative or if it’s the same as all the others.  Wait… no way is that a chick?  Ha – it’s a lesbian.  Weird.  I’ve never seen a gay homeless girl.”  And I turned the corner without another thought.  Until later, of course.  Not only did I dismiss her because she was homeless, but I also dismissed her because she was [probably] gay.

I could say a lot here, but I’m going to save it for a later post.  I just want to end with two questions and a reminder.

1.  Since when did God sanction a feeling of superiority among His followers?
2.  When is God ever pleased when we devalue His precious creation?

“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

~Matthew 7:2

More soon.

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(This post is part of a series on the Homeless, and how Jesus has been revealing my heart to me through them everywhere I’ve lived for years. To read all posts in this series, click here.)

 

The Day Jesus Walked Up to My Car

This was originally posted on Myspace in mid-2007, and then re-posted on an old blog of mine on July 30, 2008. It’s copied again here in its entirety — sorry for the length — and without edits, though it needs a lot. I simply want it to live on as it was, reminding me of who I was, and continuing to challenge me in areas of my heart that have not changed. There is more to come, as this is the first post in a mini-series on the homeless. 

To those of you who have been, have you ever noticed that there are a ton of homeless people in Miami?  I guess it’s the place to be if you’re homeless.  But you know what? Although I sympathize with the fact that some of them have mental health issues, I’ve always felt a little bothered that they’re at EVERY intersection begging for money. I’m just going to be honest: it’s annoying and sometimes scary.  You also don’t know if they’re scamming you and their car’s around the corner or if they plan to waste your money on dope.  Thus, I’ve always been leery when it comes to homeless people.  I generally avoid them, finding something incredibly important to do in my car as they walk past my window.  If they persist and ask anyway, I usually lie and say I have no money. “I’m really sorry. I just don’t have any cash.” Mmm. Right.

So, I’d been feeling kind of bad about this and had read in the Bible all these passages about caring for the needy and I decided I’d turned over a new leaf. Anytime I saw someone at an intersection working for the Homeless Voice organization, then I would give a buck or two. They may still steal out of the bucket or whatever, but I just felt a little better about it being an organization where the homeless were working. When you donate money, you get their publication that has news about the homeless population in the area as well as other handy tips just about life. Here begins portion A of my story.

Portion A:
As I drove home from church on Sunday, my car squeaked to a stop at the intersection of 95-S and Ives Dairy. As expected, the familiar bright yellow “Homeless Voice” shirt came into view with a shady-looking young man in it.  Coarse, long hair and a snaggle-toothed smile topped the baggy yellow shirt that hung on his emaciated frame. I estimated his age to be in the upper-30s range, but then I quickly reassessed in light of the probability of years of drug abuse. He may have been no older than myself. I gave a dollar in exchange for a “Thank you” and one of their newspapers.

Upon my arrival home, I collapsed onto my couch a little amused in anticipation of reading the little stories in their little paper. But the stories were not little at all; rather they related heart-wrenching tales about homeless children who “live” all around me and are turned away from shelters. I muttered the obligatory, “That’s just so sad,” and shot up a three-second prayer as I turned to the last page. Staring back at me was a young man with long, scraggly hair and a scruffy beard. He wore the stereotypical sign about his neck lamenting his lack of food. But this sign was different. It simply stated, “Will work for loaves and fishes.” What…? Then my eyes caught the caption, “How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday, and ignore one on Monday?” Wow. That’s pretty good.

I didn’t feel terribly bothered by this. I thought it was very clever. Cutting it out, I put it by my computer. There was no stinging conviction in my heart because remember, I had just given a whole dollar. I didn’t ignore him – not at all! I gave him money and I didn’t worry about what he would do with it. (Even though I did see him 30 seconds later apparently stuffing something in his pocket and I muttered,”Typical.” But I still did my part!) So ends Portion A.

Portion B:
Fast-forward three long days. This brings us to yesterday. Running about 10 minutes late for work, (which would get me there right on time, because I’m usually 10 minutes early), I’m pulling up to what’s normally a busy intersection and I’m trying to fix my hair at the same time. Although this is an intersection of three streets and it is usually semi-dangerous, it was noticeably empty this morning. Empty except for this mis-buttoned flannel shirt with a hairy belly and very dirty jeans sticking out of the bottom. I could smell him in my mind’s nose even though my windows were rolled up and he was about five yards away from my car. Watching him stagger around somewhat aimlessly, a mixture of anxiety and disgust tightened in my chest. So, I stopped my car several yards back from the intersection to keep my distance. He seemed to be crossing the street at this point anyway. As I was checking my reflection in my mirror, my peripheral vision noticed him walking toward my window. Without turning my head, I let my foot off the brake enough to inch the car forward to pass him (nice trick I picked up in Miami), hoping he’d get the hint. He didn’t. I see his belly in my side-view mirror swaggering up to the car and I quickly glanced up at the light. Still freaking red. I’m thinking, “God, he’s probably going to ask me for money, but he seems drunk and I don’t know what he’d do with it. And what if he’s really crazy?” My eyes darted around and I noticed that I’m still alone at the intersection with this man. And the light’s still red. He’s at my window now. My anxiety heightens as his hairy navel framed by dirty flannel stops literally six inches from my face. Keeping my eyes locked on the red light, I wave my left hand up by my head in a stern “go away” fashion. And he did. And the light turned green. And God slapped me across the face as I made my way through the intersection.

See, I had been feeling pretty good about myself as far as compassion is concerned. I give money to the church, which I know gives money to the homeless, and I committed to giving money when I saw Homeless Voice people. I was doing my part! Certainly more than most people do, I know that for sure. I was even so sure of myself that I cut out that little picture of my homeless Jesus and kept it in agreement with the sentiment. And then I’m driving along, completely self-absorbed, and Jesus walks up to my car absolutely out of the blue. I never even let him say a single word to me. I never even saw his face. I refused to connect enough humanity with that sloppy, dirty clothing to even give him the dignity to look him in the eye. I still, ultimately, don’t have a clue what he was going to say to me. I waved him off like you’d shoo away a fly.

Do you think I’m being too hard on myself? I was a woman alone who felt scared by an intimidating man approaching my vehicle! In that situation, I simply did what was best for my own safety! I couldn’t have known what his intentions were, and I have to go with my gut in these situations! And he probably would have taken my money and drank or smoked it away. Maybe.

Or maybe I could have looked at him the way Jesus looks at him and taken two seconds to stop and think. EMPTY intersection. If he was the slightest bit aggressive, I could have run the freaking red light! OH MY GOSH don’t you think a cop would understand that, Angela? Maybe he really was just starving. Maybe he was lost. Maybe he just needed one good meal because he was feeling disoriented from lack of food. And I didn’t even have to give him money! That’s what kills me in all this! If I had taken that two seconds to think, I would have remembered that my mother-in-law had just mailed me a Subway gift card to use “any time you need a lift”. So God, in all His wisdom, knew that I thought I was a pretty nice person. And He orchestrated the perfect circumstances for the claims of my head to come face-to-face with the reality of my heart.

Jesus showed me my heart yesterday in a way that literally broke it. I haven’t felt convicted by the Spirit like that probably in years – if ever. Sure, I’ve felt correction and guidance. But something like this? Sometimes, you feel gentle nudging by the Spirit. Sometimes it’s so gentle, or else you’re so self-absorbed, you feel nothing at all. And sometimes, He lets you alone to let you see how disgusting your nature is, and then walks right into your soul and spiritually and emotionally breaks you into little pieces.

And I have no idea if that poor man ever got any food, or if that was even what he wanted, or if it was actually an angel of the Lord sent to test me. Whether human or angel, I know without a doubt in my mind that he was a test that I failed so miserably. And do you want to know what I realized later is even worse? Even though I realized my error within a block of where he was standing, I didn’t go back. It literally didn’t occur to me. I was late to work.

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'”
~Matthew 25:41-45

More soon.

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(This post is part of a series on the Homeless, and how Jesus has been revealing my heart to me through them everywhere I’ve lived for years. To read all posts in this series, click here.)

Psalm 36, of His Steadfast Love

To the choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the Lord.

Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.
(Psalm 36 ESV)

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.”