Joseph was one crazy-courageous guy, that’s all I have to say. Think about his situation for a minute. Happily engaged to be married to his young sweetheart Mary, he learns that she’s pregnant, ostensibly with another man’s child. Rather than make a big fuss and create a scandal, Joseph decides to quietly break it off with Mary — until, that is, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” the angel tells Joseph. “For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
Surprise number one: Joseph actually believes what the angel in his dream is telling him is true.
Surprise number two: Joseph listens to the angel and obeys.
Surprise number three: Joseph doesn’t waver, even though he was undoubtedly ridiculed and disdained for his decision.
I regret a lot of decisions I’ve made in my life, but one in particular stands out. I regret the day I heard from God and failed to listen and obey.
Two years ago this February, a week before my father-in-law died, Brad asked me to drive up to Minnesota with him to visit his dad. My mom was in town, ready and willing to hold down the fort, but I said no. I said no despite the fact that I knew I should go. I said no despite the fact that I clearly felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to say yes.
That weekend I let my husband drive seven hours alone to Minnesota, say goodbye to his father for the last time, and drive seven hours alone back to Nebraska. I passed on the opportunity both to be with Brad in his grief and to tell my father-in-law in person that I loved him. It is a decision I deeply regret.
I made plenty of excuses for myself. I needed to stay home with the kids because they were stressed and sad about their grandfather dying. I needed to help my mom. I needed to stay on top of the household responsibilities. But the truth is, I was afraid. I’d witnessed my mother-in-law in her last stages of cancer barely more than a year before, and it had frightened me. Death, I knew from that experience, wasn’t all peace and prayers and quiet comfort like it is on TV. Death was ugly, and it scared me and I didn’t want to see it face-to-face again.
So I said no. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me – no, kick me, hard, right in the backside – and I said no. I didn’t face the frightening, overwhelming circumstances like Joseph did, in trust and faith. Instead, I turned my back and walked the other way.
I know Brad didn’t hold my decision against me then, and he doesn’t now. I know Jon understood why I wasn’t there, and I know he didn’t judge me for it. And I know, too, that God’s all-encompassing grace covers every last one of my bad decisions, my regrets and even my faithless nos. But still, when I read this story, I wish I’d had Joseph’s bold courage that weekend in February. I wish I’d had his faith.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you feel like you have a Joseph-sized faith? And if not, what do you think is holding you back? Fear? Distrust? Uncertainty? Something else?
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