I am a colossal disappointment.

First to my parents. They had ideas about my life and what I was to become. I, of course, had my own ideas. I believe there is a direct correlation between an expectation and our disappointment.

I became slave labor along with my brother for my dad’s great ideas. My parents used all our savings to buy a hobby farm with 100 acres when I was about twelve and my brother was nine. My father’s great idea was to buy calves at auctions, bring them home to us and we would feed them milk replacement until they were full. He would then take them to market and sell them. He purchased 200 to 250 at a time. After several weeks of doing this, the Vice Principal called me into his office to explain why I was truant. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I told him what we were doing. My father also decided it was better for us to heat our farm house with wood. After all, the prices of heating oil would bankrupt us. He purchased cords of wood. My brother and I would unload it from the truck and stack it in our basement where the wood-burning furnace was located. Wood heats making it, loading it, unloading it, and burning it. Except when the fire goes out. I remember his favorite word back then was lazy. It was a word he used liberally to describe our work ethic.

About the same time, my mother had a Flower Shop and Greenhouse she purchased with her inheritance she received when her mother died. I worked every day after school and on Saturday mornings in the greenhouse for years. I also became a master designer which meant working very long hours every holiday. She owned the shop twelve years. I learned an insightful revelation when I was about twenty-five years old. I asked my mom about the shop and why she paid me. “It was cheaper to pay you by the hour than a babysitter at the time.” I did work for retail florists in Tulsa while working part-time for churches in the early days of my church career. That was helpful.

My father didn’t understand the church or what I did. He never heard me preach. He didn't attended anything I ever did whether I competed in sports,I performed in 65 plays or musicals in theater or I served in any capacity in a local church.  His expectation was that I would get a good job at the local plant or at the local bank. He challenged me for years by saying, “When your done with that I will help you find a real job.” My dad died four years ago. I never met his expectation of getting a real job.

My mother wanted me to care for her physical needs. She has had MS for most of her entire adult life. I’ve never known her healthy. I attempted to deal with her needs as a high school student. I didn’t have the desire nor the capacity to do long term healthcare for her. Eventually, both my brother and I left. We could not be what our mother needed. She lived on her own for almost twenty years in Madison with home health care support. It wasn’t until a few years ago she hired someone to care for her while we visited her for holidays. I did care for her when we visited on holidays for years. But, her expectation was that I would care for her indefinitely. Thanksgiving, Christmas or birthdays were always about taking care of mom. She’s now in hospice care. When I we saw her last week, all she talked about was how bored she was and that we needed to get her out of that nursing home.

I am a colossal disappointment to others, too.

Second, to my friends.

Third, to employers, colleagues and other staff.

Fourth, to my significant relationships.

Fifth, to my extended family members.

Sixth, to the people in local churches….for years. My favorite comment has been, “You’re a great public speaker but you’re no pastor.”

Seventh, to any number of retailers who wanted me to purchase something from them.

God is making new wine.

I could go on and on and on about who I’ve disappointed during my fifty-two years on the planet. But, I know that I’ve never disappointed God. I am pretty sure his expectations are in check when it comes to me. He’s been the one true stability in my life since I was a little girl. He helped me work through and actually heal through some of my very own disappointments. I can write about the life I lived growing up with an honest heart of forgiveness and grace. Yes, I learned from those early experiences. Some things take longer to un-learn. But, all of it goes into the wine vat. And what does God do with all of it? Through a miraculous process, He makes new wine

Samson is our choice of biblical characters for this week’s message. Read through Judges 13-16.  Samson proved he could be a disappointment. His incredible birth story is combined with his incredible strength. But, Samson was not paired with an exemplary character. His feats usually resulted in the death of huge numbers of the enemy Philistines. But, the purpose for which he had been set apart to lead was useless until his end. You might be appalled at the cruelty and disregard for God that emerged from his exploits. It seems like Samson had his own code which included breaking every vow that was ever made.

I want you to hold onto a simple truth about most of the bible characters: just because the Spirit of the Lord empowered them doesn’t mean He endorsed everything that happened or everything they did. I believe this can be applied to each and every one of us. God can bring meaning and find a purpose in everything. (Romans 8:28) It takes time and patience. It also takes a healthy respect for the discovery process. Much like the bible characters, you’ve been set apart too. From your very beginning in your mother’s womb, God has had a plan for you. (Psalm 139) But, God has not sanctioned every experience nor has He blessed everything that was done during our lives. 

I really like the prayer Samson’s father prayed. Maybe it could be a helpful beginning for you as well. A surrendered, teachable spirit is key.

Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Judges 13:8 NIV

Pastor Jen