Friday, February 19, 2010
I was in Bible Study class recently and one of the points of the lesson stated, "Do not allow yourself to be defined by your past mistakes." I think it hit home because I had been doing just that. I had imagined people looking me in the face and telling me that I was ok and then judging me behind my back. I could imagine them saying things like, “I can’t believe she did that! Poor girl really messed her life up this time.” Or, “Well, she knew better than that and now she’ll just have to deal with the consequences.” In reality, I’m sure there may have been some people who have said those things. Shoot! I’ve said those things about myself!
It’s like the football player who ran the wrong way. Now I’m not much of a football fan so I don’t know who this guy was or what team he played for. But I do know that there is only one direction to run in that game for any one team to get ahead and this guy ran the opposite of that. The opposing team didn’t stop him because he was scoring points for them. He thought all the people screaming at him were cheering him on. Later it was said that he felt like that one mistake had ruined, not only his career, but his entire life. He defined himself by that mistake and by what people may have said about him afterward. No matter how well he had ever played before or after, that is the thing that people would always remember. He knew the rules to the game. He knew better than to run the way he ran. I don’t know what happened so I can only speculate. Maybe he got confused and disoriented during all of the excitement of the game. Perhaps he was under a lot of stress to perform well and it overwhelmed him. Possibly he was distracted by the prestige of being a star or maybe he hadn’t gotten enough sleep. We don’t know!! What we do know is that he never really recovered from his mistake. In a way, it is somewhat understandable. On the other hand, I wish he had been strong enough refuse being defined by that debacle because it has led to a life of misery for him.
For me, I refuse to be defined by the mistakes I make. I know my failures and shortcomings. Most of the time I am tempted to take only those things in to consideration when I inventory my life. However, from this point forward, I intend to define myself in a different way. I’m a child of the King, a member of royalty. As such, I am blessed with a rich heritage that, yes, makes mistakes but is able to rise above them with grace and honor. Because I watch my Father and try to imitate Him, I have developed a character that proves to be strong. I have found a strength that causes me to persist even when people tell me I can’t make it or that I’m ruined. I’ve learned to take things in stride and trust that my Father is in control of the entire kingdom and is negotiating for me. Because I am His offspring, I care for people (sometimes too much), I forgive, I love, I respect, and I give. I am honest and kind and I have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of others. So remember me as “the girl who messed up” if you are so inclined. I refuse to be defined that way. I hope you also will take an honest inventory of your life and decide how you would like to be defined and just go for it.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I was sitting in church last night. It was Wednesday evening and since I have not been a member of this church for long, it was only my second Wednesday evening service to attend. The singing was absolutely beautiful though! On Wednesdays they sing acapella - without music - and the sound of the voices blending is astonishing! You can feel the Spirit sweeping across the building, soaking in the praise and worship.
The sermon came from Acts 8:26 - 40 and it is about the Ethiopian eunuch. In case you do not know, a eunuch is a man who has been castrated. That way, when he is guarding the queen he will not be able to sexually assault her or carry on an inappropriate affair or get distracted from his duties. It was explained to us that in that day, eunuchs sometimes became eunuchs because they were forced to. On the other hand, some became eunuchs because they wanted to rise within the ranks and that was the only way to do so. Now I'm not a man but I couldn't help but ask myself right then and there "who would DO that?!" Aparrently this eunuch had become a eunuch in order to rise in the ranks, to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak. His chariot was the equivalent of a private jet and he owned his own copy of Isaiah, something that was very impressive! It still doesn't seem worth it to me. Anyway, the Ethiopian eunuch had just been to Jerusalem to worship; however, he did not get saved there. He got saved on the way back when the Spirit miraculously told Philip to approach the chariot and stand beside it. It sounds to me like God was asking Philip to eavesdrop... but whatever. It so happened that when Philip approached the chariot, he saw the eunuch reading the book of the prophet Isaiah. The eunuch didn't understand what he was reading so Philip explained it to him and the eunuch ended up getting saved. But actually, that is not the part I wanted to talk about here. I just had to go through all that to get to the good part. It was at this point in the sermon that I got distracted because I got hung up on a verse that the eunuch was probably also reading from Isaiah 56:3-6:
3. And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." 4. For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- 5. to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off."
In my mind, here was a eunuch who had worked very hard and had given up everything to become a high-ranking official. He had even given up his most precious body part, the one part that would have enabled him to leave a legacy by taking a wife and having children. At this point in his life, I'm assuming that the eunuch discovered that he longed to be able to have children so that his bloodline, as well as his legacy, could continue. Instead, he saw himself as "a dry tree." What he had done by becoming a eunuch was irreversible. Some things don't grow back. And some things can't be undone. Lots of things he would have been able to change, but not this. Even though he had done it for what seemed to be an honorable cause at the time, he would give anything if he could change it back now. But he couldn't - not ever.
And that is how we are. Life goes on and we do things that we can't undo or that we can't change. Ever. We long to have a future and a legacy to pass on but it seems so hopeless because of that one unchangeable decision. We cut off a body part that was most valuable. Or cut off a relationship that meant the world to us. Or we turned our back on our calling. Maybe you had an abortion or gave up a baby for adoption. Or maybe you searched but didn't find that person to spend your life with and now you are getting older. There are so many things it could be but the bottom line is, it seems hopeless because of a decision you made. You've lost the one thing that could have meant a future for you and you can't change it or get it back.
But take heart! Satan never has the last word. It is not over yet! The Lord said that if we will choose to keep His Sabbaths and if we choose to do what pleases Him and if we hold fast to His covenant, then we will be remembered by something even better than what we thought, had we been able to undo that one bad decision. God is so gracious. Though our actions have consequences and are sometimes painful beyond words, God will still give us the chance to leave a legacy if we cling to Him and strive to please Him. Another verse that comes to my mind is Jeremiah 29:11:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I could go on and on because these past few months I have had times when I felt hopeless and that my life was finished. Regret colored many of my days with despair and my heart was heavy as a rock. I was like a eunuch who longed to have a family and nothing could change my situation. But now, I have heard from the Lord and been assured that my life is not over. I don't know what the future holds but I intend to walk closely with the Lord and cling to Him so that I can find out. Now honestly, I do love going to church and I did hear part of the sermon last evening. I just happened to get stuck on my own sermon and it was definitely one God wanted me to hear. Please don't give in to the notion that God is finished with you or that it is too late to prosper for His kingdom. He is capable of anything and you have no idea what He has in store. It's not over yet.