by Bekah Vickers
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. — John 1:9-12
Children of God: Receiving Our Rightful Inheritance – In our final week leading up to Christmas, we are celebrating what it means to have “the right to be called children of God.”
Read Psalm 118
Mary and Joseph walked in courage and blind faith that their experience was true; with no one to reassure them they were right. Their only safety net was God’s love and mercy, a safety net they must have tried out many times, or else they would never have been able to fall into it so gracefully. (Richard Rohr)
I have never allowed myself to be much of a risk-taker. In fact, I often go out of my way to plan for unforeseen circumstances so that they will not surprise me and force me to improvise in the moment. I have made many major life choices based on what I knew I could achieve rather than what I just hoped I could achieve.
And the world has lauded my success. I received good marks in school and was favored by my teachers and peers. I did well in college and had no difficulty getting a job as a teacher. By playing it safe, I’ve almost always “achieved my goals” in life.
But then I had kids. Who knew that this simple, seemingly ordinary step would be such a gigantic risk? (Well, no one told me.) Suddenly, I could not possibly plan for everything – and as soon as I thought I had, this tiny human would throw a different kind of curveball (or tantrum). And then there were two – then three – of them, and I quickly found myself surrounded by my own failures. Failure to get the baby to nap. Failure to make dinner. Failure to change out of my pajamas. Failure to get the toilets cleaned. Failure to wake up when my alarm went off (since I’d been up just a few hours earlier).
I felt like I was failing in my friendships and in my relationship with my husband, and most deeply, that I was failing myself on every single level. And in many ways, I was.
But then God moved in my life to show me that failure was not the terrible thing I had believed it to be; in fact, it was a tool that would help me grow closer to Him than I dreamed possible. In His measured and purposeful way, He has taught me that the very essence of “faith” is the willingness to be vulnerable, to step out on the unseen path, to risk every type of failure – with “simple trust like theirs who heard…the gracious calling of the Lord.”
This is what we see in the lives of Mary and Joseph. They walk right into the risks, “with courage and blind faith,” as Rohr says, and do not seem to fear the outcomes. Perhaps their courage grew with each step, as each step proved the steadfastness of the Lord. And maybe when fear threatened, they looked back on God’s track record of love and provision before stepping out again into the unknown.
But they didn’t have this fearlessness because they were successful in the world’s eyes. Everything we know about their lives is marked with instability and powerlessness. By all appearances, their life choices led them into poverty, an illegitimate pregnancy, and refugee status. The world does not easily forgive these kinds of “failures.”
However, they knew what the world does not: failure brings us closer to God, if we let it. When we fall off society’s tightrope, we fall into the arms of God – “the safety net” of “God’s love and mercy.” We experience what it means to be truly known and loved – and truly accepted and forgiven. We learn that we are no longer enchained by the expectations of our world, that we are free to act differently – to take risks, to maybe fail, to see something bigger than our world is capable of seeing. Or some One.
Sometimes when we read the Bible, we miss this. We see the Law and the rules and the expectations for holiness, and we build a tightrope even higher and more treacherous than the one the world was offering. But God intended for us to fall off of that tightrope. He intended for us to discover that we aren’t perfect in our own power. And He sent this very Son so that we could fall and then get back up again – as many times as we needed to.
And that’s where the freedom is. That’s where there is space to try something new, something risky. To be ourselves, imperfections and all. To not have it all together – and to not hide that from the people around us. To walk in courage and blind faith as we follow anywhere He leads us.