Shame washed over me as I remembered the scene. The clerk had no doubt been doing her job, serving my children and me as we shopped for their new “church shoes.” Payless had been nearly empty as she measured four squirming feet. However, after nearly half an hour struggling to find footwear for two girls, I was perilously close to blowing my top. By the end of the ordeal, I had curtly asked the Payless associate to “give us some space!” It was not my finest hour.
So I was relieved the next day, when the familiar sales associate emerged from the back room. With a bit of trembling, and my infant son asleep in his carrier, I was finally able to apologize for my behavior the day before.
I am continually making mistakes. Sometimes the fear of doing something wrong prevents me from doing anything at all. I identify with the servant in the parable who was so afraid of what his master would do that he buried the bag of silver he’d been given, instead of doubling it as the first two servants had done. The reason behind these actions? This man believed that he served a hard master. How often do I treat God this way? The fearful way I often respond to God reveals what I believe about his character. I believe that he is ready to jump on my mistakes, and yet he has sent his only Son to pay for them with his life. Sometimes I act as if God is waiting to punish me, and then I read, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). God gives me cause, again and again, to look to him and to his character in order to remember what is true. I can see his perfection and remember that it is God’s righteousness that covers me, not my own. My righteousness is like filthy rags compared to his.
I know all of this in my head. I know that God is good. I know that Christ died for my sins and he is the only one who is perfect. Sometimes, though, what I know in my head does not come through in my daily life. God in his infinite mercy shows me again and again that he is not a hard master. He shows me, as he showed Moses that day in the cleft of the rock, that he is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. It is no coincidence that God commands us to be courageous. Stepping out in faith, knowing that we may make a mistake, takes courage. When our courage comes from God’s fitness, his rightness, his ability to accomplish things, then it is not misplaced.
So what kind of master is my God to me? When I turn my mind to it I can remember all the times he has been faithful. He has provided for me. He has lifted me up when I was bowed down with depression. He has placed me in a family when I have been far from mine. He has listened to me, held me, seen me and valued me. He knows everything about me and yet he still loves me. My God is good and holy and righteous. I am only good and holy and righteous through Christ.
At the shoe store my children had not listened to me. They had complained. They had dawdled. They had literally dragged their feet. How many times do I do this to my heavenly parent? I know what I should do, but I put it off. Oh how I wish I would respond to my children the way God responds to me, with grace. No matter how I struggle, God is always there waiting for me when I turn back to him. In fact, he is the one who helps me to turn. Many times I cry out to him for help with my attitude. It is amazing how faithfully he answers these prayers.
Taped to the inside of my bathroom cabinet is Psalm 92:2 that says, “It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening.” There are many places in the Psalms that encourage us to tell stories of God‘s faithfulness. My stories feel small. My stories feel like every day bloopers or tests that I fail. But what if my stories aren’t my own to keep? What if these stories are gifts from God. What if these stories are just the thing my sister or brother needs to hear to be reminded of the true character of the God whom we serve. Our God is not a hard master. Our God is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is waiting for you to turn back to him. He is waiting to meet with you and to listen to you. He is waiting to speak with you and guide you. He is waiting to help you with the state of your heart.
Christ came to set the captives free. He sets us free when we accept salvation from his nail-scarred hand. He sets us free as believers when we humble ourselves before him, confess our sins and are forgiven.
I stepped into the sunlight as the door to Payless dinged shut, a much lighter person than before. I had confessed before God and man and been forgiven by both. Yes, the clerk had been very patient with me, but God also, I realized, had dealt with me so gently and with such love. When my response to him had been fearfulness, his advance had been graciousness. He had, without a doubt, orchestrated the miracle of my son’s unusually long nap. He had opened the way for my obedience, even made it easier than it could have been to locate the one I had wronged. He had been responsible for the flood of relief and forgiveness I experienced.
No, our God is not a hard master. In fact, when we were busy finding new ways to defy him, God was already making a way for us to come back. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6). God is so far from being a hard master, that he has made a way, through Christ, for us to be his friends. He has made a way for us even to be his children. And if you have put your trust in Christ, that is the kind of God you serve today. He is not giving up on you. Our God truly is compassionate and merciful! He has proven again and again that he is slow to anger and abounding in love. If you, like me, struggle to see past your own mistakes, focus instead on God‘s character. I can honestly say it is the best decision you will ever make!