I don’t like failure. I’ve read about the failures of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln and countless others on their way to great successes. I love success but I don’t like failure. I’m getting better about it. I’m learning to receive criticism graciously and learn from it. I’m moving in that direction. But I’m not there. Maybe you aren’t either. I wonder what floats around the periphery of you mind. The thing that screams for your attention like Arnold in “Welcome Back Kotter” — waiting for you to acknowledge its presence. What responsibility, opportunity or change is right there, you just need to step out and step into the challenge?

Walk with me back in time a few thousand years to the history of Israel and their first king. I recommend stopping here to read I Samuel 8-10 (https://www.bible.com/bible/116/1SA.8.NLT) for the full story. Following is my paraphrase. Israel is a small nation with no king. All the nations around them have kings and they decide they need one too. So they go to Samuel, the man who spoke for God at the time and told him, “We need a king!” This grieved Samuel but he talked to God about it and was given permission to anoint the person God chose as king. God led him to Saul, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. Samuel took Saul off by himself and anointed him king and then gave him a whole list of events he would encounter on his way home to confirm his calling as king. In I Samuel 10:9 it says, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day.” (emphasis mine)

Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s amazing. Saul is called to take on this awesome responsibility and then God gives him all these signs to confirm it – you know, take away any doubt he might have and then he gives him a new heart. I think that means he gave him  the heart of a king that desired to lead the people of Israel. Up until this point, Saul didn’t have kingship on his radar. He was just doing life. It seems like he would be pretty pumped about it and ready to take on this new challenge! What possible reason would he have to doubt or pull away from this task?

Samuel calls all Israel together at Mizpah to select and anoint the king. He leads the people through a selection process and Saul, son of Kish is chosen. I would expect that at this point in the drama, Saul would step forward courageously and gracefully accept the role he has already been anointed to do. But when his name is called there is no response. He is no where. As a matter of fact he is so gone that the people have to inquire of the Lord as to where he is. Let’s catch up with the story in verse 22 of chapter 10: “So they asked the Lord, ‘Where is he?’ And the Lord replied, ‘He is hiding among the baggage.’ So they found him and brought him out…”

Baggage here likely referred to the supplies the people would have traveled with to Mizpah and these bags were kept on the perimeter of the camp. What in the world is Saul doing among the bags? How can he vacate his responsibilities before he even gets started?

Oh how like Saul I am! Before I even get started I can tell you what will go wrong. And I don’t want to fail, so I stay hidden – hidden behind activity, responsibilities, lack of time, excuses… My life becomes about me and my own preservation. I deny that THIS, whatever this is, is God’s next step for me. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” It’s not that I don’t delight in Him or that I don’t want to love Him or others. I just don’t want to fail. I don’t actually trust that God knows my heart’s desire or that he can provide for me in new adventures.

Lately I am just tired. Tired of swimming upstream to what I perceive will bring my heart joy. Tired of trying to make things work. Tired of impression management. And so my prayer has become, “Lead me to those things that fulfill my heart’s desire and fill me with joy and I will focus on delighting in you.” The journey is painful at times. Looking inside at what keeps me hidden among the bags is not always pleasant. Other times I reach a plateau where I can see how far I’ve come and those days are so sweet. I spend less time among the bags and more time beside the still waters (Psalm 23).

What keeps you hidden among the bags? What seems overwhelming to you? It might be a new adventure or relationships that need mending; it might be learning a new skill or a job change. Hiding from challenges causes chaos in my life. I bet it does for you too. When we hide there is always the challenge of staying hidden. And when I hide for long enough I forget how to live in the open. I lose sight of who I really am and what I value. I forget that I don’t have to be able to do it all, only the things that are prepared for me. The words of Paul in Ephesians 2:10 encourage me, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Come out of the bags! Life in the open really isn’t as scary as it seems. There are good things waiting for you even if the process is messy at first. I believe you have everything you need in Christ Jesus to live the best version of you. Embrace life and let joy fill your heart!

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

                                                                Numbers 6:24-26

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