Stumbles (1,146)

May 14th, 2011

“Every temptation is common to all men.”

What a massive statement! It comes from the Bible, and if we actually believed it, we would treasure the fellowship we have with others so we might gain insight from their experience. In addition, we would avoid all sensations of self-righteousness, knowing that we are going through the same things as everyone else. For after all, what attracts us to one another is not a litany of good deeds, positive experiences and uninterrupted plans. We actually despise folks that are always on the up-and-coming and never seem to share any sign of difficulty.

We are drawn to stumbles.

Every celebrity who writes a memoir includes a good share of these shortcomings in their tales, knowing that these are the events that create camaraderie with the reader. For instance, is there anybody in the Bible who didn’t stumble?

Adam had that tree experience. Abraham liked to lie. Moses had a bad attitude. All the prophets were laced with inconsistencies and foibles. King David…I wouldn’t even know where to start. And even Jesus lost his temper, cursed a fig tree and certainly was not completely successful in choosing disciples who wouldn’t deny, doubt or betray him.

People stumble. It is a fact. The question is when in this process do we come across these folks?

Candidly, sometimes I come across new friends when they are right at the beginning of their stumble. They are seduced by pleasure, intoxicated by the experience and have absolutely no inclination whatsoever to change anything. I may clearly see a path of destruction spread before them, but any intervention on my part at this juncture would not only be fruitless, but would terminate the budding relationship.

Then I run across folks who are well aware that their stumble has caused them difficulty, but they’re smack-dab in the middle of denial. They are touchy, grumpy, frustrated and ready to be defensive against anyone who might even suggest that they are weakened by their situation.

And then, of course, you meet folks who have already stumbled, passed through denial, have come to themselves and are in the midst of repentance. They are tender-hearted, fragile, a bit too needy, perhaps, but ready for any input that might lead them closer to reality.

You just never know where you’re going to meet people. So because I know that stumbles are not only a part of the human journey, but essential, I have developed a speech of encouragement for each phase that I might encounter along the way—whether in the beginning of a stumble, in denial of a stumble or repenting of a stumble.

When I run across somebody who’s commencing to stumble, I merely say, “I want you to know that no matter what happens, I am your friend. Don’t ever forget it.”

When I run across those in denial, I whisper in their ear, “When you finally get over this, remember—someone believed that you would.”

And when I run across those who are repenting, I exhort them by saying, “It is a brave thing to change your life. Brave—and necessary.”

For if we believe that those who stumble are always going to be falling on their faces, we are not only outside the mind of God, but we will often find ourselves on the other side of the wisdom of history. And if we think those who impudently deny their fallacy are always going to be incorrigible, then we close the door on the power of God to convict the human heart. And if we think those who repent have already achieved their soul satisfaction by merely stating a diminished capacity, we fail to under-gird their efforts with gentle scrutiny.

Stumbles. Without them, nobody has a story, just a series of proposed happy endings.

We are how we fail by how quickly we recover to repent—to create the possibility for newness of life.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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