An opportunity came to me yesterday and knocked the wind out of me. And not the good kind of knocked the wind out. The kind of opportunity that sends a rush of panic down my spine, widens my eyes, and I think “Oh Nelly, what next!”.
The kind of opportunity that answers all sorts of questions and raises even more. The kind that sinks your stomach because you feel so monumentally under equipped.
And I ask, “God? Is this from you because it’s so out of the realm of my comfort and my comprehension that there’s no way on this good green earth that I can do this. You wouldn’t give me something that I couldn’t do. Because then it wouldn’t be from you, right?”
And my confidence fell down the elevator shaft.
My courage was sucked away and left me in the place of panic.
Have you ever been in that place? A place where you see the opportunity in front of you, seemingly heaven-sent, but not heaven-sent for you because this doesn’t even smell like something you’ve ever tried before. Not even a whiff.
I don’t really like trying things I’m not good at. Or things that aren’t related to things I’m good at. Or things that might cause me to stumble or fail.
Because when I’m good at things people notice and approve. When I fail people notice and…well…notice.
And that doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel good not to have your A-game. It doesn’t feel good to look at another person and know they know you messed up. That you’re not perfect.
Because then they might see you differently. They might have less use for you because you’re of less use to them.
Because these skills and talents, these wirings and personality traits, this body that can do things, has failed this time.
So yeah, I get nervous, and I get wary of opportunities that might stretch me and drop me and trip me up.
Because I have confidence in this flesh of mine but I also know, oh so well, its’ limitations.
And that knowledge makes me tentative and unwilling to pursue the goodness right in front of me.
Because I have it all wrong. I am putting my trust in something that yes, will fail me. I will come to the end of my knowledge and will too soon see my own limitations.
God works in mysterious and sledgehammer ways, though.
This morning as I was wrestling, headache-y and surly, my readings took me through Philippians 3. The title even says “no confidence in the flesh”. Sledgehammers, I say.
Paul talks in this chapter about how he had all the training, the right background, the history, and the zeal. A perfect pedigree.
But that means nothing to him.
But sometimes these things mean everything to me. They mean acceptance and success and wiping sweat off a forehead for a narrow escape.
But to Paul they meant nothing.
Because he knew what was better. He knew his limitations and he knew Christ.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Philippians 3:7-10
I know the exhortation that God will equip me for the tasks he’s set in front of me. And I believe this to be true. But these verses go deeper and call me further.
I need to realize the power I have, the purpose and value, come from knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. And this power is not for my own social perfection but that I may know Christ and make him known.
Because when I fail, I look to Christ.
When I fall, I look to Christ.
In the cloud of my embarrassment and shame, I look to Christ.
And when I’m praised, I look to Christ.
When people tell me all manner of wonderful things about what I can do and who I am, I look to Christ.
Because this is the goal. To know Christ and make him known.
My own desire for perfection and performance holds no eternal value. It will not make me more like Christ. It won’t let me know him better, this perfecter of my faith.
So what do I do when I forget to look to him and the fear of failure surrounds me? When I sit in the pool of my own embarrassment?
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
I press on. Christ calls me heavenward so I press on. Forgetting past mistakes and past pride, I press on.
Because there is no ceiling to what I can do in Christ. No fear of failure when I seek him. No condemnation, just the power of his grace and forgiveness.