And Behind Door Number One…

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.”
(Exodus 3:10)

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:Shh006

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?

Wrong.

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…

 

My Call to Endurance

Have you ever had a moment when God put into place so many signs indicating His direction for you that you would have to be ultra-dense to miss them all?

That happened to me this past weekend. Months ago, I felt strongly drawn to attend the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville and registered early. There was a glitch in my registration which resulted in me being charged substantially less than I was expecting. I called to straighten it out and the gentleman I spoke with was able to see the problem, but he had no idea how it occurred nor how to fix it. He told me, “Well, consider this a gift from the Lord and I guess you are supposed to attend this year!”

That event slipped into obscurity as the mundane home school days ground on. A few bouts of sickness, winter weather, and unexpected life events introduced kinks into our routine. As March commenced with a parting shot from ol’ Jack Frost, I found myself pretty much sick of home schooling.  And if I was feeling depleted concerning my home school, I was utterly devoid of any creativity or energy for writing. I was seriously eyeballing a complete change of career (read: getting a career) and began to look toward the upcoming conference with a sense of hopelessness.

We missed the first day. A series of what I can only call “Murphy Events” made my oldest child wonder aloud if we were even supposed to go to the conference. The memory of my conversation upon registration came to mind, and I replied that I was certain we were.

Knowing this, I rose at 5:00 the morning of the conference and sat down with my Bible, asking God to prepare my heart for what He wanted me to hear. As I read, I conferred with Him and He began to bring passage after passage of Scripture to mind, all in some way or another related to perseverance and steadfastness.

The first seminar we attended was called “Passionate Pursuit of Excellence” by Mark Hamby of Lamplighter. I must say it was basically an extension of my private conversation with my King from that morning, incorporating many of the same Scripture passages and even an illustration using an account from Judges that I had read the day before. In many ways, though several people were listening, it was an intimate chat between me and my God.

A word Mr. Hamby mentioned as he spoke was the Greek word agon, meaning struggle or fight, from which we get words such as “agonize.” Here, God reminded me that agonizing effort will often be required of me both in writing and home schooling. In both I must be prepared not only to give my all, but to sacrifice many desires.  Indeed, I will need to heed the words of this blog’s key verse and “run with endurance the race that is set before” me.

While I received many other admonitions from God during the conference, there is one other speaker I would like to mention in part because her topic was so close to my heart. Stacy Farrell of Homeschool Adventure Co.  spoke on the dire need to prepare our children for the absolute inundation of lies they will face every single day in this world.   Of the many wonderful points she made, one in particular hearkened back to my discussion with the Lord: She encouraged us all to be stubborn in our callings and to expect our enemy to try to dissuade us.

I had grown weary and had allowed discouragement to creep in. In these and so many other ways — far too many to recount here — God used people at the Teach Them Diligently conference to remind me of what He had been telling me all along.

Through many of the speakers, God dealt me a much-needed slap in the face and many reminders that I am not in this race alone; that I cannot quit just because the course is long and I am at the point of exhaustion. That I can trust Him to be strong in my weakness.

God emphasized to me that now is not the time to give up, but as Jacob did on that riverbank so many years ago, now is the time to cling to the Him with all the strength I can muster, refusing to let Him go. After all, I cannot be said to have endured if I drop out in the third leg of the race, but only if I run over hill and rocky ground, through blood and pain and tears, laboring diligently, walking when I can no longer run, clawing my way when I can no longer stand, continuing all the way to the end.

Now, at this moment, when the contest seems grueling and interminable, now is the time not only to endure. Now is the time to rejoice.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5