This morning, as I prayed through the Divine Hours, I was struck by my internal tension between the morning reading and the morning refrain. The reading was from John 12:23-24:
“Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.'”
This is an important aspect of Jesus’ ministry and of kingdom living — dying in order to produce a greater harvest.
Yet the morning refrain from Psalm 55:22 says:
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble.”
As I prayed through these Scriptures, I realized how much I’ve viewed my current circumstances as having stumbled. During the last few years, it has been easy for me to look at my circumstances and then read a passage like Psalm 55:22 and say cynically in my heart, “Oh reeeaaaalllllly?”
Deep within, I have interpreted my painful circumstances as God letting me stumble. And since he doesn’t make mistakes, then perhaps I wasn’t righteous in some way. Perhaps this was a result of something I did or had become. Perhaps unbeknownst to me, some kind of failure had caused me to topple out of my life’s calling and passion, leaving me and my family to struggle with so much doubt and uncertainty.
And so I have been wrestling constantly with a vague sense of failure for the last four years. Through it, my consolation has been in the fact that God was using this time to teach me to be a better person and to learn new things. I was encouraged by the fact that at least God could use my stumbling for something good.
But this morning a thin veil was peeled back and a little more light was let in upon my thinking. The last four years have been a time of dying, not stumbling. It has been a time of letting go of false identity, pride, ambitions, dreams, woundedness, false theology and practices, and personal security so that God could take the seed of my life and hopefully produce many more. Seeds in my wife, my children, my friends, and maybe even you.
I realized this morning that who I’m becoming, who I’ve befriended and what I’ve been doing in God’s kingdom wouldn’t have been possible without the kind of dying Jesus alludes to in John 12. And through the pain in this process, God has been faithful. He has sustained me. He has not let me stumble.
So, I’m not stumbling. I’m learning to walk in a new way. I didn’t stumble on the path I was walking. Rather, God has been teaching me to die to the path itself in order to teach me a new path entirely. And with that realization, the cloud of failure is evaporating.