Dear random Catholic priest who was just trying to perform a wedding ceremony. In Latin. When I was sitting next to my best friend in high school. Who, as it turns out, can do an amazing impersonation of a priest performing a wedding ceremony in Latin. I. Am. Sooo. Sorry. Also, my apologies to the bride. And to anyone else whose idea of a wedding did not include two seventeen year olds getting the giggles.
I’ve also messed up on a more existential level. I’ve heard God tell me to tell someone about Jesus, and clammed up. I’ve let words fly out of my mouth that have genuinely crushed someone.
What happens when I screw up?
What happens when this frustrated perfectionist gets it all wrong…single-handedly orchestrates an apocalyptic catastrophe? I have faith that Jesus died on a cross. I have faith that blind people got their sight back. Lazarus was dead one day, and the next day was back to breathing air. But, when it comes to my sins being forgotten. As if they didn’t exist anymore–that I don’t have to continually pay penance for my mistakes, I can come up empty handed.
So, what can God do with our faithlessness?
Many things it seems.
Here is just one I gleaned from further study in Joshua.
The altar of worship and thanksgiving had barely been built by Joshua when the surrounding kings decided to ban together and put an end to the Israelites. Joshua and his people were girded up and ready for the expected battle–the one that looked like weapons and strategies and everything else they had been experiencing. So much so that they didn’t see the Gibeonites coming.
The Gibeonites used oscar winning performances, complete with props (9:4-5) to con the Israelites into forming a peace treaty. They gave the Israelites exactly what they thought they needed when they were weak—bread and provisions. What could go wrong? In a way, it might even look like God was providing for His people. Except, He wasn’t. What was the mistake? 9:14 They “did not ask direction from the LORD.” Surely God would have reminded them that He didn’t want His people mixing with pagan religions. God would have reminded them of His faithfulness, that He was their Provision. But, they didn’t give Him the chance.
And, as a result, the people second guessed their leaders (9:18), and the Israelites ended up fighting a battle that wasn’t theirs. (10:6-7)
Thank God that is not the end of this narrative. God continues to be faithful, because He is God. He encourages the Israelites, despite their mistakes, and even goes as far as throwing rocks from heaven and stopping the sun and moon (10:11-13) to help them win the battle. God turned the situation around and in it He was glorified.
So, does God honor our disobedience? By no means. However, God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished. Our bad decisions might hold us back, but never God. God is for us. God can even take our lack of going to Him and create opportunities for us to lean on Him anyway. He has a way of showing up when we need Him and in ways that take our breath away.
The hyperactive imaginative side of me would really, really be interested in seeing God throw a rock from heaven. Let it land in a desolate stretch of the desert and squish a cactus, nobody gets hurt. It doesn’t take much more faith to imagine that God can help me in my disobedience. Lead me on to situations and opportunities to right wrongs and to have me not repeat my mistakes.
Joshua 9 reveals the truth that we humble ourselves before a loving God Who is for us, Who is ready to give directions of “Fear Not” even to the heart who at first refused to ask for guidance. When I act like my sins are always there to haunt me, to stare me down and render me helpless, I forget the good news of the gospel. I become a bigger con artist than the Gibeonites.
God’s forgiveness is real, even if consequences stick around.
My mistakes don’t evaporate. However, they are transformed into opportunities to know God. So much more epic than a flying boulder.