New Wine

I have gotten into a new hobby recently. It’s awesome. I can not recommend it any less than anything else that I have avoided recommending to people. It’s awful.

I have been failing.

Now, it’s not a total life failure or something like that. Don’t sound the trumpets of intervention for me and mine. We are held and kept. My health is great, I’m still working, and I’m killing it at school.

Dean’s list, what?

But in an effort to reach beyond survival for a career, I have been experiencing tremendous failure. Most times, it’s a failure to qualify in a vast field of qualified people.

For its part, the Church as a whole gets the same grade when it comes to hiring practices. And it ain’t great.

I don’t mean to beat up on the body of believers, but something really has to be done about the way that a group of people whose entire purpose is to love people with the unrestrained and unconditional love of Jesus Christ minimizes the dignity of the people it does not hire. I mean, for the most part, it’s radio silence. Sometimes there’s the acknowledgement of receipt of resume for a job solicitation after I call to follow up. Often times there’s no one there to pick up the phone.

And after that, more radio silence.

Recently, I’ve begun to have people send me their latest hiring metric, which involves a personality test. The test says there’s no failure for this personality test, but the deafening silence following completing these tests begs to differ.

I never thought I would fail a test for personality. Heh.

I’ve also been exploring other careers beyond ministry. I’ve branched out at failure. These other jobs have been much clearer on my lack of qualifications or even in the testing phase, I have known where I have fallen short.

Each time I return defeated…

And it hurts less…

The more I try.

Something inside of me is new.

In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender
You are breaking
New ground

On Saturday, as I drove defeated in the early afternoon rain back to my house, an old voice wanted to call me a failure, but I just couldn’t hear it like I used to. It’s hard to hear a voice of failure when you’re driving toward a beautiful wife who treats me like crowned royalty, and driving toward children with more raw courage than a battalion of infantry who treat me like a dread general.

I was driving toward a home that is dry and happy.

I was one day away from going to church with people who very humbly and beautifully worship and love God.

I had failed, but I also knew some good things to work on.

And I felt really good.

But I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand

This morning made yet another in an unbroken string of sermons that got all up inside of my business. Jamie gave a tremendous sermon on the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. She made an amazing point about the guiding hand of God, taking us into the hard place, the wilderness, to be tested.

She explained that testing, in the original languages, both in Greek and Hebrew meant to reveal what was inside. For some bizarre reason, I heard this and began to realize, for the first time, that the tests we undergo, to reveal what is inside is not to shame us. I realized, for the first time, that God tests us to reveal what He is making inside of us.

Make me a vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever You want me to be
I came here with nothing
But all You have given me
Jesus bring new wine out of me

I have never felt so complete and whole as a person before. I have never been so drawn to my bride or committed to my children. There is so much new goodness happening in me and coming out of me because of everything that has happened, and the newness of life God is calling forth.

Where there is new wine
There is new power
There is new freedom
The Kingdom is here
I lay down my old flames
To carry Your new fire today

Picking myself up from the ground has become much easier. Recovery from failure takes less time. It is no longer failure of the core of myself or my definition. Just a disagreement of qualifications within a man-made system. I have become acquainted with the man in the arena. I have become the man in the arena and I take courage that I have not taken up with the sad and timid soul.

When Jamie said that life is not going to be easy, I chuckled next to my mom. We shared a chuckle because we have walked through tremendous wilderness experiences recently. The conclusion at which we have both arrived is that God has purposeful redemption and beauty in our scars. It is also a beauty we may never fully know this side of eternity.

See, the thing is, when most people say “bad things happen for a reason” I roll my eyes. But when Jamie said that God has tests and resulting maturity waiting for us on the other side of the wilderness, I knew, as a person in her flock, that she knows more stories of woe and hardship than she lets on. I also saw in her faith unshaken that she has walked those hardships as well. And I saw the truth in her heart born in words and Spirit-breathed teaching that she knows this truth is true.

The band played more truth in music.

Jeff dismissed us outside, inviting us to see the truth in action.

Jamie waited with a gigantic smile and a huge aluminum tub.

She saw the fruition of prayer and faith and waiting and oversaw the baptism of six people into this truth.

People drawn into the wilderness to be tested and drawn forth new wine.

Brooke Ligertwood, “New Wine,” There is More, Capitol CMG Publishing, 2017.

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