Recently I stumbled on my “Path to Freedom.”
My stumbling did not involve succumbing to the most destructive of the demons of my past; the drugs, the alcohol, the pornography. No, it was none of those things. Nonetheless, I did stumble by beginning to take credit for something I should have been thanking and praising God for on a daily basis.
I stumbled when I became too busy to spend adequate time with God because I was becoming more focused on what had been given to me than on the One who gave it to me, and the reason He gave it in the first place.
I stumbled by taking an opportunity that the Lord gave me in the most amazing display of His power since He picked me up off that bloody shower floor in August of 2010 and making it an object of worship when I should have been lifting my hands to Him in praise and thanksgiving for providing me with that opportunity.
In the process of making it about me, the opportunity itself became less exciting and more drudgery. The obstacles loomed large where previously they had been non-existent. I had lost the advantages that existed because I was being blessed by God.
I stumbled when the project I am working on became about me and not about serving God, and I was embarrassed and ashamed when I realized what was happening. I felt like the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading to the Promised Land. The excitement of leaving their old lives behind soon left them and their focus soon shifted to the difficulty of the journey rather than to the reward which awaited at the end.
“So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” Exodus 15:24 ESV
It all became about them.
I live in the Central Union Mission in Washington, DC which would be difficult to convince others is any sort of Promised Land, and maybe I have not completely arrived there yet, but I am close. So close that if I am not careful, I may wind up like Moses and be denied the last step into that Promised Land.
“For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:52 ESV
I do not want to hear the same words spoken to me.
We all have our ‘Egypt’ – well, most of us anyway, and certainly if there is complete honesty applied. Mine was a lifetime of sin and willful disobedience to God. My ‘escape’ came when I tried to kill myself and I called out to God. My personal journey to the Promised Land took me through a little over 4 years in federal prison in Louisiana, to this place I now call home – the Central Union Mission, where I have resided for the past year and 2 months.
Recently, I was led to an opportunity to pursue a project that had originally been revealed to me in prison. Up to that point, I had been a cook at the Mission, content to serve God by preparing the best meals I was capable of with the food God provided through our donors.
An unfortunate incident led to the opportunity to work in the kitchen being taken from me. Not because of anything I had done while working, but because of my status as a result of the crime which had sent me to prison. But as that door slammed shut and I got up to leave the Executive Director’s office, it was as if God Himself placed His hands upon my shoulders, forcing me back into my seat, and commanded me to, “Speak up!”
It was then that I asked if I had ever mentioned an idea I had for the creation of a career-development program to prepare individuals for work through classroom training and hands-on experience in a retail business which would sell products men would learn to produce.
He liked the idea and over the next couple of weeks, I produced a more in-depth outline which ultimately led to my being hired to develop the entire program. It was, quite simply, a miraculous gift from God. There is no doubt that the entire process had His hands all over it.
For the past month and a half, I have been consumed with developing PowerPoint presentations, curriculum outlines, and myriad other details required to bring to fruition a training program which has the potential to positively impact the lives of some of the men we serve here at the Mission.
I should have been humbled. I should have been grateful. I should have been in awe. I should have been supercharged with excitement. I should have gazed upon the Promised Land that lay before me and tearfully thanked God for sharing His vision with me and bestowing upon me the ability to glorify Him through this endeavor.
I should, I was, and I did.
And then I stumbled.
I took my eye off the prize, and turned an incredible blessing, honor, and privilege into a job that consumed me and caused me to rely upon my own strength and ability. I forgot that I have no strength and ability that does not come from God. I lost sight of the true purpose for the project and I lost sight of God, who opened the door in the first place.
I figured this out yesterday, and I tearfully asked forgiveness before heading to a small men’s group Bible study last night and asking for their prayers that I will not fail to properly thank God, praise Him, and glorify Him as I continue to work, with abundant joy, on this project that will help to restore the lives of some of His children.
It’s OK to stumble on the “Path to Freedom.” It’s even OK to fall down.
As long as we know it is God who will be there to steady us, or to pick us up. As long as we know it is God who put us on that path in the first place. And as long as we know it is God who gives us the strength, courage, wisdom, and desire to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we continue our journey.