Friday, June 15, 2012

I'm afraid my failures are too big

Failure. Which one of us has never failed? To be honest, failure can mean you tried something new. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with that. But in my mind, failure is usually the result of letting someone down. Not doing what I was supposed to do. Staying silent.
I sat at the table in the middle of Chili’s. My boyfriend sat across from me and the table was filled with his friends. They were all theater majors, and they lived it with every ounce of themselves. I loved them. I was envious of them in a way. They knew who they were, or they appeared to. It was right before Christmas break so the topic of Christmas came up. Being the rebellious personalities they were Christ was a joke; something to laugh about. I sat quietly playing with my food occasionally looking across the table. I said nothing.
Would you like to know what verse has haunted me since then? Matthew 10:32-33 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Now, I’m not trying to dismiss what this verse says, but even Peter openly disowned Christ and was forgiven. I, however, felt I had failed in this instance and others so greatly there was no way God would use me again. My reputation was too tarnished. I was no Peter after all.

The fear God would not use me has kept me from doing many things in my life. Why even try if He’s simply going to say, “You had your chance”? Or I would try, but in the back of my mind I would fear my past failures. What if someone found out? What if someone spoke up? There were days the fear was nearly crippling, or I would become another annoying person to work past the fear. It never really went away.

The story of Hagar helped to take that fear from me. Does God have some work to do because of messes I made? Yes, unfortunately so. I can’t pretend everything is how it should be. Can He use everything for the good of whoever is involved? He told me he can, so I believe Him. He can clean up my bad choices. Hagar was in the wilderness with no hope for the next day. She was angry and hurt and sorry, and God was in the picture. He let her know He still saw her, He was still with her, and He would still do as He promised. I was reminded His plan will work and He can use me. I have no need to fear my past failures anymore.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The fear our failure would stop God's promise.

Genesis 21:17-18
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.
In the past I never asked myself why Hagar was afraid. She and her child were alone in the wilderness and had run out of water and food. I thought I understood why she was afraid and I just kept reading along. Surprisingly I learned quite a bit {when I dug into what the Lord said.}

“What is the matter” was actually a combination of three words, but the prefix seemed to shed the most light on the phrase. Everything used to define the prefix gives the meaning of something temporary; something that had to be gone through. It seemed God was reminding Hagar He knew where she was and this was something she had to go through.

I was startled to learn “lift up” can mean forgive. “Lift up the boy.” Was God calling Hagar to forgive Ishmael? I stopped to consider that he was approximately 17 years of age. Thinking on Hagar’s story and how she had run because of Sarah’s temper, I can imagine her telling Ishmael he had to behave in front of Sarah. Instead, a 17 year old man child mocked a newly weaned child. Yes, I can imagine blaming Ishmael for where they were. I can imagine needing to forgive him.

“Take the boy by the hand.” This phrase seems very self-explanatory until you consider how old the boy is. Why would Hagar need to hold his hand? The word in Hebrew literally meant “hand”, but figuratively it meant “control, power, strength, direction, care.” Was God calling Hagar to continue to care for him, to continue to direct him in the way he should go? I thought about when I have needed to hear such words; they were not when I was confident. Rather, that type of encouragement was needed when I felt like such a failure at this job of being a mother. Could it be possible that Hagar felt the same way?

Would Hagar have found the well if she had walked on a little further? I honestly don’t know, but I am sure it didn’t matter. I believe Hagar’s fear was God would not keep the promise He had given her because she and her son had failed. Does this mean if we give up that God give us what we want? Not necessarily, but let’s take a look at what truth we can glean from these verses.

Question 1: God’s promise was not based on Hagar and Ishmael’s ability. He would still make Ishmael a great nation, just as He had promised, even though they were in the wilderness. Have you ever felt as if God couldn’t work with you because of your failures? Can you believe what God does is not based off what you do, but rather His word?

Question 2: Have you ever been in a situation where you saw no way out? Have you ever felt stuck? God did not allow what Hagar could see to become what He saw. Rather, He opened her eyes to the well which must have been hope for the moment and the future. Can you believe God’s future for you is not based on what you can see? Will you allow Him to open your eyes so that you can see what He does?

O Lord, you see me still.
You see right through me.
Forgive me my failings and for blaming others.
Help me forgive others and trust you.
Your Word is true and Your sight is pure.
You are with me right where I am
and you will go forward with me from here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hagar's Fear

Hagar is introduced in Genesis 16. Her story continues through Genesis 17 and 21. This is where we find "Do not be afraid" for the second time in the NIV translation. Genesis 21: 17-18. Please read these chapters if you are not familiar with Hagar's story. This is my fictional account of the verses we will be studying more in-depth tomorrow.

Hagar could still see the bush she told Ishmael to sit under. Her heart was heavy and she was so confused by the situation they were in. To be perfectly honest, she was confused and angry. She had warned Ishmael about Sarah's temper, but she thought the God of Abram... Abraham... well she thought God saw her. Why wasn't He seeing her now?

“What is the matter, Hagar?”

She looked toward heaven, “Oh so you do see us?” Hagar was relieved, but she didn’t see any way through this moment. They were without water and the sun was beating down on both of them. It was just a matter of time before they died.

“Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.”

“The boy?” Hagar scoffed. That boy got us in this situation. I told him over and over to be careful with his actions. He’s old enough to control himself, and yet he sat there and mocked Isaac right in front of Sarah. That boy makes me so mad.

“Lift the boy up….”

Tears came to Hagar’s eyes. Yes, Lord, he is still my son. My boy. I just feel so inadequate. What kind of mother am I that I allowed us to get in this situation? I have failed him, and you. We were in such a good position for you to do what you said, and now we are in the wilderness. I failed you both.

“..and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

Still? Lord, despite our failures, and how we have let you down you will still do as you said? You still want me to be part of this? I just… well, I’m out of water now. How can I believe you will turn him into a great nation in the future when we don’t have any water right now?

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

Genesis 21:17-18

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and taken him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation. (NIV)  
God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the coice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him." (NAS)  
And God heard the coive of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. (Amplified)  
Meanwhile, God heard the boy crying. The angel of God called from heaven to Hagar, "What's wrong, Hagar? Don't be afraid. God has heard the boys and knows the fix he's in. Up now; go get the boy. Hold him tight. I'm going to make him a great nation." (The Message)
What is the matter? in Hebrew is -k  - suffix meaning you
                                               and l  - prefix meaning to, toward, in through, before, at with; temporally: before, until, when; logically: so that, in order to; agency: by means of
                                               and ma - why? how? what?; O! who, whoever, whatever

lift up in Hebrew is nasa - to bear, carry, lift up, forgive; to be forgiven, honored, carried; to be carried off, lifted up; to elevate, carry along; to cause to carry, to bring; to exalt oneself, lift up oneself; from the base meaning of rise in elevation come figurative extensions "to exalt, honor" as the lifting up of a person in status and "to forgive" as the removal of guilt and its penalties

hand in Hebrew is yad - hand, by extension: arm, finger; figuratively: control, power, strength, direction, care

God put circumcision in place when Abraham was 99 and Ishmael was 13. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100. A child was weaned at about age 3-4. That would make Ishmael approximately 17 in Genesis 21.