Sometimes, I wonder whether God might decide to give up on me one day. I am a registered disciple, but sometimes it feels like I'm flunking the test.
The question came to me this past week while running errands. Anticipating that I might have some wait time, I brought along Rob Bell's new book, "Love Wins." I'd heard it was a radical book, but I felt up to the challenge.
My first stop was the car wash, where I hoped to find a restful place to read. Wrong. A saleswoman interrupted me by finding a chink on my windshield.
"Your insurance will pay for the repair," she promised, and "It'll take only a minute."
We called my insurance company, which wanted to know the exact time and location the microscopic rock contacted my windshield. I am supposed to know that?
I felt my face redden at the saleswoman's prompt to fabricate a date and time, so I hoped she didn't notice that I turned Bell's book face down.
From there I stopped at the cell phone store to correct a problem caused by my son's desire to text a Canadian girlfriend.
Because our international calling is supposed to be blocked, I didn't expect to pay the $150 problem. The agent told me the block applied only to voice calls, not texting. I wanted to write Bell and tell him that love may win, but today I was getting bamboozled.
By the time I got home, I was feeling a tug at my conscience. It was the tug I often feel when faith and real life collide. And, now, for the umpteen-millionth time, I was being challenged to live out my faith in a way that makes a difference to someone other than myself.
The truth is that living out one's faith is a pretty easy practice when we limit it to the religious habits of worship, study and prayer. But most of us need faith to work outside the house of worship, say, in the world of pushy saleswomen or a contract's fine print.
As we practice our faith, most of us occasionally will feel like giving up. The voices tell us, "Give up because you'll never measure up."
Even as a minister who is supposed to teach faith, I sometimes feel the sting of the old maxim, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."
Yes, there is a big distinction between how I act sometimes and how I should act. Does that make me a hypocrite? At times.
But other times, I know God never gives up on me and never will let me go. It's those times that I know God holds me for a purpose, and with each scrape, fall and failure, I'll be shaped into something that comes closer to the image I was created in.
Maybe that's why the Apostle Paul urged us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." But the part I have the most trouble with is what he says next:
"Do everything without grumbling or arguing."