Confession: Sometimes I doubt my calling.
Am I alone here? Probably not, yet even so I easily slip into feeling alone; into doubt and discouragement instead of faithful perseverance. I am particularly prone to such mental agonies when I have been praying for a door to open yet find myself standing in a hallway filled with doors which are all securely barred.
Or worse, when my efforts are called to mind with the crystal-clarity of hindsight and I recall all the ways that I failed to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, and the rest during my stint as a homeschool mom. My blunders stretch as far as the eye can see; great heaps of error which threaten to topple and bury me in inadequacy.
And yet… my King reminds me that not all obstacles are blockades.
In fact, my current situation kind of reminds me of Moses. In Exodus 3, we can read about God’s dynamic calling on Moses’s life – the burning bush and the undeniable command to speak to Pharaoh and ask him to free the enslaved descendants of Israel:
Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Personally, if I had heard the very voice of God speaking from the depths of a flame that did not consume the vegetation it engulfed, I like to think I would move forward in my calling rather eagerly and certainly anticipating a high degree of success.
With all the ways the Lord equipped Moses – a staff that became a snake, an apparent miraculous manifestation and subsequent healing of leprosy – I imagine myself in his place approaching the great Pharoah with a slightly cocky swagger and a confident demand for the freedom of the Jews. Most likely while I stepped jauntily up to the throne, my mind would be filled with a pleasant fancy of the grateful masses hoisting me upon their shoulders and roaring, “Three cheers for Moses!”
But Moses did not exactly sprint from the burning bush to the throne room:
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
Not only did Moses begin his conversation with the Almighty with this apparently self-deprecating question, he continued to hem and haw and generally drag his toe through the dust like an unwilling child through a rather lengthy dialog, eventually submitting his final request:
But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13)
If I am brutally honest, that sounds more like the actual me. When I look at the strewn remains of my failed attempts, I hear my own voice echo very similar words: “Do I have to, Lord? I don’t seem to be very capable. Can’t You find someone else?”
Eventually, Moses did go, albeit reluctantly and only after God agreed to send his brother, Aaron, along as the key spokesman. Of course we do not know whether Moses entertained grand fantasies of being hailed as the rescuer of the people or not, but naturally one would expect a seamless success from such an unmistakably clear calling, especially when bolstered by the confidence of the people:
Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 4:30-31)
Things were bound to go well from here, right?
The first interview with Pharaoh did not precisely result in an open door to freedom. Instead, the door slammed firmly in Moses’ face:
The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ (Exodus 5:6-8)
And rather than receiving honors and accolades, the formerly worshipful group of slaves now criticized their mighty deliverer:
“The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:21)
This was not going well at all.
Of course, most of us know that after many such interviews, several broken promises, and no small amount of signs and wonders which Pharaoh’s stubbornness escalated to dire proportions, the people were finally allowed to go free. The Egyptians even gave them much in possessions, very possibly in the hopes of being well rid of the calamity.
Persistence and faith won out in the end, and at some point Moses even gained enough confidence to take over the office of spokesman from his brother. Yet the fact remains that Israel’s circumstances became much worse before they improved.
Today, I am reminded that not everything that looks like failure is.
Just because my calling has not brought the success I imagined does not mean I have misunderstood it (although that possibility remains!). Sometimes, obstacles in the path make the journey more rewarding in the end.
But at other times, the obstacle is the point. Real-life success often appears in different clothing than fantasy success, and not all locked and barred doors are impassable.
Sometimes, learning to trust God in the face of repeated failure is what we were called to do all along…