One great thing about being a parent is how heartwarming moments can happen at any time and often take us by surprise. Such was the case the other day as my daughter, Julia, and I discussed the end of her school year. Coming down the home stretch of the academic year, Julia worked pretty hard to pull her grades up. The results? She passed all but one class, algebra (I too had the opportunity to take algebra twice in high school), and advanced to the 10th grade.
“You’re still on track to graduate on time,” I said.
“You mean I don’t have to give up?” Julia said. She said it with a bit of jest, but also with a bit of earnestness, that reflected her deeper fears that she had already irredeemably damaged her future and the possibilities for her life.
“No, Julia,” I said. “You do not have to give up. You are still on track to graduate, and all of your possibilities are in front of you.”
We both smiled. My heart melted.
As I reflected, I was reminded that this is very much how I believe God is with each of us. In process theology, God is the lure of our futures. God holds our past and presents us with positive opportunities for our future, futures filled with an increasing sense of harmony, order and complexity. Joel Osteen, not a process theologian, but a minister who has inspired me, puts it more simply:
With God, it’s never too late for us. Even if we have completely missed God’s plan for our life, God has a plan B, C, D, E, F . . . None of us ever has to give up. Starting from where we are, we do the best that we can to make the most of the possibilities that are yet in front of us, trusting God to reconcile our past stumbles with the future God holds for us.
There have been many moments where I too have asked the question, “Do I need to give up?” I have doubted my abilities to be the father my children need me to be. I have sometimes wondered if I have already botched the job beyond redemption. I have sometimes wondered if I am really cut out for pastoral ministry. Have I fumbled about so badly that I have crippled my congregation’s possibilities for vibrancy, growth and service? I sometimes beat myself up for the mistakes I have made. I sometimes beat myself up for outcomes, even when I know my all the best and most appropriate actions taken and efforts given.
The resounding answer to the question at these moments, I have become convinced, is “no.” I do not have to give up. We do not have to give up. No matter how many mistakes we have made, God’s mercy renews daily. As the songwriter said, “Because I know he holds the future . . . ” Because, God holds the future, no matter how bleak our yesterdays, our tomorrows are bright. Therefore we can give our best today.
Horace McMillon is the “tent-making” pastor of Open Door Mennonite Church, in Jackson, Miss. He and his wife, Monique, have two children. He is a graduate of both Chicago Theological Seminary and Oberlin College and the author of No Mo’ Broke: Seven Keys to Financial Success from a Christian Perspective. He blogs at churchoftheweb.wordpress.com. This blog post is provided thanks to our partnership with Practicing Families.