My toddler son’s feet touch his classroom floor as I set him down. He squeezes my arm tighter, his lower lip is already puffing out, and his eyes beginning to drip tears. Before I’m finished signing him in, he’s burst like a dam. His sadness follows me long after I’ve left his classroom. My heart breaks thinking of all the reasons why my boy must think I’m leaving him with his new daycare providers.
"Did I disobey one too many times?"
"Did I wake up too early today?"
"Did I not eat enough bananas and peanut butter yesterday?"
While teachers are strangers to him, his (hypothetical) questions are not strange to me. I ask some rendition of those questions when I believe I’ve upset significant people in my life.
"Is my wife frustrated with me because I didn't earn enough this month?"
"Is my supervisor disappointed in me because I asked such a stupid question again?"
The underlying question I'm too afraid to ask is: "Am I good enough for _____ to stay?"
"Have I exhausted her patience to the point she's going to leave?"
"Have I proven my incompetence to the point I'm going to be fired?"
And, like my son, I am scared that my heavenly father doesn't think I'm good enough to stay either.
To push back against the growing fear, I open the Bible to the story of Israel in Exodus. At this point, the Israelites have been enslaved, forced into suffering, and stripped of all power. God hears the misery of helpless Israel and answers their suffering by empowering his representative, Moses, to go before Egypt’s rulers and request their freedom.
Put yourself in God’s shoes, instructing Moses on how you desire to be introduced to Pharaoh. “...and you [Moses] and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of _____, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God’” (Exodus 3:18).
How would you fill in the blank? Here are some of my suggestions (were the Lord to have taken my advice):
“The Lord, the God of the whole universe, all gold and silver, the creator of the heavens and earth…”
Powerful. Authoritative. Dominating. This God means serious business, right?
But, what does God say? Exodus 3:18: “...say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us…” (emphasis added).
In announcing his power and proclaiming to all Egypt what is meaningful to him, God tells Moses to describe him as the ruler of an enslaved, suffering, powerless people.
God was communicating to Pharoah, and all who would hear the Exodus story, that his covenant people were his, no matter their condition. Israel had nothing to offer their savior but desperation and trust. The rest of Exodus proves they couldn’t even offer their unfailing obedience to him. Yet, God declared to the world, “I claim them.”
Every day after work, I arrive at my son’s classroom door and announce, “I’m Ian, Wesley’s dad.” I love my son for who he is, not what he can offer me. It is my greatest joy to see his afternoon smile, spread ear to ear, as he stumbles across the room as fast as he can for me to sweep him back off his feet and into my arms.
Long after the story of Israel in Exodus, God would again declare his claim of his people, but this time God would be the one suffering. On the cross, Jesus Christ, the son of God, would bear the title “King of the Jews” as those he loved mocked him.
Trust that God finds you significant – that he is faithful and just to take you at your worst (1 John 1:9). As you derive confidence from knowing your significance to the Lord, I encourage you to take a bold step. Confess your worry to that person of significance: “I’m concerned that because I didn’t _____, you’re so disappointed in me that you’re thinking about leaving me. Is that really what’s happening right now?” You’ll either find clarity and be able to take steps towards restoration, or your fear will dissolve when it’s disproved. In both cases, you’ll find the opportunity to grow closer together in the relationship and with the Lord.
When we avoid prayerful confession of our sin before the Lord, it’s often because we’re so wrapped up in the fear that he wouldn’t draw near someone who is dirty or weak. Push back by actively considering your shortcomings, and passionately clinging to Jesus’s forgiveness for you. The more you refrain from confessing, the more you shrink the necessity of the cross, and your dependence on Jesus day-to-day.
Consider reading Duiguid and Houk’s book on confessions.
Ian joined the Fieldstone Counseling team after completing his Master's Practicum and Residency with the Boston Center for Biblical Counseling (BCBC). He has counseled formally and informally for over ten years with a specific passion for those suffering, confused, and disoriented.