I fear failure. I want to convey confidence, competence, and courageousness (and I like alliteration). But, my greatest fear has been to fail God, failure to meet his righteous standard, failure to trust his goodness, failure to overcome sin, failure to love as he loved. Born out of insecurity and an imperfect understanding of what the Bible says about who I am to God and my identity in Christ, I am constantly faced with my greatest fear. I have always been a failure.
Tuesday was an epic failure day.
I woke up lacking sleep and feeling stressed, worried, and on the verge of sickness because I couldn't stop talking to my husband to let us get some sleep the previous night.
I hadn't made time to cook dinner the night before because we were both going places and unable to have dinner together. We had food Monday night but there was nothing in the house to send with my husband for lunch the next day.
I took time for a nap but made sure to get up early enough to cook a lunch that I could take to my husband at work. Everything seemed to work beautifully. Ten minutes before his lunch break, the oven had failed to heat up to its set temperature. The meal was supposed to bake 20 minutes but 30 minutes still produced semi-raw chicken. I left the meal in the oven and drove to take my husband to Subway for lunch. On the way home, I had intended to run a couple necessary errands. I wasn't as fast as I should have been, knowing the chicken was still in the oven. When I returned home, the house smelled good but the chicken didn't look good. It was burnt.
I spent most of the rest of the day barely putting one action after another. While I washed dishes, I cried. Any time I thought about the chicken, I cried. I couldn't think of anything else to cook for dinner. The chicken was the only meat we had thawed. Everything else was rock solid. I was determined not to go over budget on an already tight grocery month. I didn't want to rush out to buy fresh meat. I'd already been out several times more than planned. Dinner plans had no flexibility because we had an appointment that evening as soon as I picked up my husband from work.
I had failed.
It struck me in the midst of weeping over such simple things that God has been preparing my mind to understand this moment in life. Our church home has been studying through the Old Testament on Sunday evenings. Currently, I've been reading through the book of Genesis in preparation for the Bible study discussions. Our last study discussion focused on Genesis chapter 20 where Abraham lies to the King of Gerar, a Philistine, about Sarah being his sister not his wife. She was his half-sister but Abraham had chosen to conceal the truth about their marriage to one another. This is the second time Abraham has lied to a foreign ruler about his wife. Each time he states his reason for lying was that he was afraid for his life if the truth were known. Several times, I have read Abraham's predicament as a result of the lie being found out. One of my discoveries the last time I read through Genesis is that this instance of Sarah being taken into the king's harem would jeopardize the fulfillment of God's promise to give Abraham a son through Sarah. Abraham's lie put Sarah in the position of being defiled because another man slept with her. Even if she didn't conceive (because she had been barren until this point), any child she did conceive within that time frame would be born out of questionable paternal lineage. How could Abraham force Sarah into the situation of possible adultery? How could Abraham doubt that God would protect them? Hadn't he done so before in multiple situations? Hadn't God protected them the previous time that Sarah was taken into Pharaoh's harem despite Abraham's lie at that time? God had just appeared to Abraham to reassure him that Sarah would bear his son within that year. How did he know she was not already carrying his child? Abraham put everything about God's promise at risk. He failed big time.
Abraham is not the only person in the history of Genesis, or the rest of the Bible, to fail to trust God or meet his righteous standard. In fact, my favorite thing about the book of Genesis is how it reveals the faithfulness of God to people unworthy of his calling or his blessing. They were not chosen because they were perfect or because they were righteous. Many of the patriarchs, Abraham's sons and grandsons, did not even choose to follow God initially. God chose them. God called them to obey his commands. God promised them descendants, inheritance of the land, and great blessing. God kept his promise to each of them regardless of their sordid history or their faithfulness to his commands. God counted them righteous because one single act of obedience demonstrated their faith in his promise. Other acts of obedience followed as God continued to reveal himself to them and demonstrate his faithfulness to his promise. But, God kept his promise to these people to demonstrate his character, not because of their character. They grew in obedience and in character because God taught them how to have faith in him and to obey his commands.
On Sunday evening, I kept bringing up the amazing revelation of God's faithfulness to Abraham. I could not seem to get anyone else in the room to grasp that this chapter of Genesis was revealing something wonderful about God, not just how much we all make mistakes like Abraham. Perhaps I was the one not listening, I did not realize that I was the one who needed to be reminded of God's faithfulness in the midst of Abraham's failure.
God prevented the King of Gerar from touching Sarah. He even prevented anyone in the entire palace from conceiving a child during the period of time when Sarah was in the King's harem. God warned the King not to touch Sarah and to immediately return her to her husband or there would be more severe consequences. God intervened on Abraham's behalf, and Abraham received honor and riches despite his deception. God intervened to guarantee his promise that Sarah would bear Abraham a son, the child who would begin the family line of Jesus.
Doesn't God intervene in my life still? Didn't he intervene in the midst of my sin, my failure to meet his righteous standard, to demonstrate his love for me? "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 God chose to love me and to call me to faith in his promise of eternal life and redemption from sin. He did not choose me because I rose above the crowd in character or performance. He chose me because of who he is, not because of who I am. His choice to call me includes changing me, just like he taught Abraham to change. Eventually, Abraham demonstrated epic faith that makes him famous today. I may not end up having my life actions and faith-based decisions recorded in a book. I know the Bible is finished recording the lives of those God has chosen, but God is not finished calling ordinary people whose lives are full of failure. God is not finished taking a life of sin and redeeming it to create one of purpose, grace, beauty, obedience, and faith.
"To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory." (Italics added for emphasis)
Beauty for Ashes by Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly You Tube Video-Beauty for Ashes