I have just got back from the 1st of 5 retreats that I am to be part of over the next 7 weeks here in our diocese.
In all honesty I hate retreats, it tend to each too much, it normally rains, i get no exercise and am away from my family. To top it off, what often happens in God speaks. Now that may seem a strange thing to say but sometimes the last voice I want to here is God's.
It's not that my faith is falling apart, it's just I can be lazy and i have spent so much of the past 15 years wanting to do God's will and often finding it painful as well as rewarding that I figure i need some time out, I am a tired disciple who needs a bit more than a rock to lay me head on (a 5 star motel room would be nice). So going on retreat, while giving me time out was also going to give me time with God - and I didn't want that....
SO what did God say to me....
Well it was during a session our Bishop led on Samson that God really spoke to me. In the session Bishop Richard was looking at how Samson was a man with Leadership Gifts but not much in the way of character, hence he failed to do the right thing because, he saw something, he desired it and he took it. As a follower of Jesus this something I identify with, I seem to fight with the fact that my character is not what it should be - but me heart longs to serve God, a few weeks back i said to my supervisor, I often feel as though I can do this job with out consulting God, I have the skills to do this job well, but sometimes my character lags behind...
Anyway at the end of a long session where i didn't so much feel convicted as condemned to fail because of my character flaws I read these words from Judges 16:31
"Then his brothers and his father's whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years."
I nearly cried, because this seemed to be grace in action. After failing God for so long, betraying the oath he had made to be a man of God (a Nazarene), he was buried with his people. As you look through the records of leaders among the people of God in the Bible to be buried in this way is a huge compliment, it's a place of honour and recognition of good works, of a godly person.
I think it's a huge testimony to Samson (and his God), that is spite of his failings, God still used him.
That really spoke to me, because I wrestle with my failures every day, i wrestle with the fact that many days I am not who God has called me to be, but it was assurance that even through this God is still there, and the words "you have done well good a faithful servant" still ring true.
As churches and as people we can be so judgemental of people who fail and fall, that is not the way of Christ, and it would seem that, that message echoes in the Old Testament too, failure is not end when a heart desires to do God's will, even if our character stuff us up