When we feel like “total failures”

December 14, 2012
Based on the cover, not so much "for everyone" as for the really beautiful people.

Based on the cover, not so much “for everyone” as for the really beautiful people.

John Goldingay, whose For Everyone commentaries on the Old Testament I couldn’t recommend more highly, writes with candor and self-deprecation, qualities that, I hope, are reflected in my own preaching and blogging. Like Goldingay (I suspect), I tend toward self-doubt and pessimism. I’m not saying that I’m justified in this tendency. But it’s who I am. After 42 years of being this way, I’m probably not going to wake up an entirely different person.

With this in mind, you can imagine how much I appreciate this first paragraph of Goldingay’s reflection on 1 Kings 19, where Elijah runs away in fear from the murderous Jezebel:

I am inclined to think that nothing I do in seeking to fulfill my vocation achieves anything. My vocation is to help people understand the Old Testament and let their thinking and their lives be shaped by it. I am passionately committed to this task and want to carry on seeking to fulfill it rather than retire and spend more time cycling on the boardwalk, but I am inclined to think I totally fail. It is not because I am incompetent but because the odds are stacked so high by the church’s ignorance of the Old Testament, especially in our culture over recent decades. Nothing I can do, like writing all these commentaries or having four five hundred student in my classes every year, can make a significant difference. This raises the question of why I continue seeking to fulfill this vocation, and I guess the answer is contained within the question. It is my vocation.[†]

† John Goldingay, 1 & 2 Kings for Everyone (Louisville: WJK, 2011), 90.

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