That day I made the worst and best decision of my life. I still remember standing in my back yard after school. The honey locust and elm trees still wore a few tenacious leaves. But I couldn’t hang on any longer. I had become a follower of Christ during the summer and began that fall semester of my junior year in high school dedicated to making it work. Yet, I was still failing.
“My counselor told me I should just drop out,” I told my mom as we stood in our suburban back yard. “No one believes I’ve changed,” I complained.
Then my mom dropped a bomb shell. “Maybe you should,” she said seriously. “Quit. You’ve got a good job. They’ll take you on full time.”
One day, one desperate decision, two outcomes.
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
2 Corinthians 10:1-18
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Isaiah 1:1-2:22: God’s people stand on a precipice. The kingdom has split by north and south. Both halves mostly unfaithful to God. The dream of God’s promise to Abraham that they will be a nation blessed to become a blessing has been forgotten by most and is fading for others.
Israel has trusted more in armies and alliances, the faith of their fathers and empty religiosity than in God himself. Now comes the curse. “I will turn my hand against you,” the Lord tells them through Isaiah. In other words, “Let what you put your faith in save you.”
The book of Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets’ writings, is a record of God pleading with his people to trust him and a prediction of what will happen if they don’t. The message for us is to look back at Israel’s poor decisions and learn both about God’s wrath and God’s equally sure and powerful redemptive grace.
2 Corinthians 10:1-18: “The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world,” Paul writes. So, today we see a God-imposed theme between passages written over hundreds of years and by vastly different authors. “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Isaiah and Paul agree. Each time we humans trust in our own efforts, we get human and disappointing results.
Psalm 52:1-9: The psalmist strikes the same chord. Trust in yourself and great wealth and destroying others, and you will eventually falter. Make God your stronghold and trust in his unfailing love and the pain and pleasure of each day will take on deeper, longer–eternal–meaning.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
How could my dropping out of high school simultaneously be the worst and best decision of my life?
Worst: Life has often been a battle since that day. The shadow of feeling a failure has followed me. I have too often regarded myself stupid, doubted my worth, and considered myself a quitter. Just as often others have agreed with those labels. I have had to double back and learn later what God had for me to learn then. And for a long time, especially in dark times, I spent more time looking back in regret than looking forward in hope. I do not blame my mom, or the school. But quitting high school was a painful, abrupt, stupid decision.
Best: Life has been a battle since that day. That’s when I began to understand I was living without a safety net. That day I learned I could not trust myself. Desire and dedication carried me only until I ran out of steam. I didn’t have what it took.
My school also failed me. It specialized in college prep. No one in my family had ever gone to college. Even I couldn’t imagine being the first.
And my mom believed in work more than school. Had to. As a widow working two jobs to provide for me and my siblings, she desperately needed me to work.
There were no government programs–that I knew of–no rich uncles, no bleeding hearts, no easy answers.
There I teetered alone on the tightrope. No net. Sad clown face feeling sorry for myself. For all that, I now believe myself fortunate. Had any of those people or entities rescued me, I believe I would never have inched along the rope toward God’s outstretched hand.
Because of my life situation, I was learning one of the core ideas in the Book of Isaiah:
“Stop trusting in man, who has but breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he.”
Sadly good intentioned safety nets often keep us trusting ourselves and our own systems of survival. The unintended consequences of breaking one another’s falls is that we may never reach out to God. Why should we?
Yet God’s intended consequences when we fall and feel pain may be that we cry out to and trust him.
There is no sense in playing what if. God might still hold my heart in his steel grip even had I not dropped out of school. All I know is that God turned one of my worst decisions ever into one of the best: to trust him even while free-falling.
- What do these for passages share in common?
- What does your part of the world boast in?
- What passage spoke most to you?
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