I have been reading the Old Testament lately and no matter how many times I cycle out of the New Testament and back into the Old, I am struck by the life stories contained in it. I often feel frustrated that the people whose lives were chronicled don’t somehow make a better choice or learn from their mistakes since the last time I visited them. How can they not see the pattern of sin and selfishness that leads into destruction and shame? Why don’t they see how much God loves them and how everything is pointed to the hope of a savior? I want them to have a better story where they lead a life that is completely pleasing to God.
The particular plight of the Israelites is mind-blowing, right? After God rescued them from the Egyptians with plagues, parted a sea, gave them a leader who could not have been in a better position to lead them out and provided pillars of fire and smoke they complain about the food. They complain about how hard it is to cross the desert into their promised land (for goodness sake) and they wind up taking a trip that could have been completed in a few weeks and turn it into a grueling 40-year journey. I want to shake them and say “Are you blind? Do you have amnesia? How have you forgotten all that God has done for you so quickly?”. But, it is then that I am convicted because the Israelite’s story sounds way too much like mine.
God made it clear to me from the beginning of my life how much He loves and cares for me. I understood His sacrifice for me and saw His plans for me. He provided me with an amazing family and every opportunity to follow His will for my life. In the face of all of that, I found it easy to pretend that I had forgotten His presence and my sin. Instead of choosing a straight path I took one that was exhausting, dangerous and that was leading me far from where I was meant to go. I have taken 40 years to get to a place where I could have arrived at much faster. God is here now and He was there then. He was always there on the stupid winding road just as He was there for the Israelites when they complained about the manna falling from heaven and how their days of slavery were better than their life of freedom.
I am so thankful for a God who can hear past my complaining and who endures my constant wandering away from Him. I am also thankful for the stories of the people’s lives in the Old Testament who remind me that there wasn’t one single person in all those pages who got it all right. No matter their love for God or their professed allegiance to Him, they turned away and ran at some point. But God woos us back because His love is unconditional. His dedication to us is unwavering. His wisdom and goodness are more than we can fathom. He has been planning our salvation from the day He created the earth and has woven our stories into the stories of all those who have loved Him and who have been extravagantly loved by Him.
My story of knowing and accepting Christ isn’t a perfect picture of obedience or bliss, but it wasn’t meant to be. The same God who has heaped grace on my head and sacrificed His very own son for my dirty broken sinfulness, is doing the very same for you. You can’t be too far away from the road for God to reach you. You can’t have so much sin that Christ can’t cover it. You and I are the very reason that Christ ever walked the earth – because God wanted to save our relationship with Him. He loves us so much that He has gone the farthest distance to find us.
It has taken me awhile to accept my story and the path I traveled to get here. I am going to guess that your story might not look exactly like you would want it to either. But our hope is that the only story not worth living is the one that doesn’t include Christ. The only lasting mistake you can make is rejecting the sacrifice Jesus has made for you. Living in the knowledge that the maker of the earth and heavens pursues you and loves you fully and that He goes to even his greatest means to save you – that is the best story you could ever live.