Have you ever let someone down? I know I have, and it’s tough to own up to and face the hurt and disappointment in the person, especially if it is someone you love. As a parent, I can think of instances when I wasn’t able to measure up to my younger children’s lofty and unrealistic image of me—at times, it was as if I could literally hear it exploding into a million pieces. The moments that stick with me more, however, are those when I didn’t do what I said I would, either because I forgot, or I let the busyness of life distract me.
Reminded of My Shortcomings
The Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer in the Old Testament story of Joseph is an interesting character. Thrown into prison along with the chief baker for angering the king of Egypt, their fate seemed grim, and it didn’t help that each had troubling dreams. They had the good fortune, however, of landing in the prison that housed Joseph, who was falsely accused of betraying his master Potiphar. You see, Joseph had a God-given ability to interpret dreams. To the chief baker, that was not good news because his dream foretold his swift execution. To the cupbearer, however, Joseph gave the hopeful word that he would be restored to his position at Pharaoh’s right hand, which happened in a matter of days. The grateful cupbearer promised to put in a good word for Joseph.
Only he didn’t, at least not for two long years while Joseph languished in prison. But when Pharaoh himself had a disturbing dream that no one could interpret, the cupbearer finally realized his failure and said: “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings” (Genesis 41:9). Do you think?! That’s quite a “shortcoming,” forgetting the man that got him freed so that he was effectively left to rot in prison.
God’s Plan Includes Us Anyway
Jesus’ disciples had plenty of shortcomings, too. After three years of travelling with Jesus, they shared a last supper together and he told them straight up:
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” (Mark 14:27-28)
Abandoning someone they loved in his time of need is quite a failure, especially since they each protested that they would never betray Jesus (Mark 14:19), as most famously played out in the example of Peter denying him thrice before the next sunrise. Yet abandon and betray him they would, and Jesus predicted it. That’s what makes so remarkable Jesus’ promise to meet them later in Galilee. In spite of their shortcomings, he had a plan to work with them anyway.
That to me is the takeaway. We all have shortcomings in our devotion and service to others and to God, and sometimes we get painful reminders of them. But God in his grace includes us in his plans anyway. What do we do with that kind of grace? I suppose that’s up to each of us, but it makes me want to pass it on.