“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” (Matthew 10:1-4)
That day, I was stuck on a name. So often there are those days, when something in a verse catches our eyes and sticks with us — a phrase, a meaning, a word, a name. Reading the gospel of Matthew, I skimmed through the list of these familiar names, these twelve apostles, though I always remember only 11 of them. But that name, my heart beat on the note of a name, this grace not quite understood. Because in between of these names and describing these people by their family name, by their relations or where they come from, is the humble admittance of the writer himself.
“Matthew the tax collector.”
Tax collectors, generally looked down by the people because of their greedy ways of stealing from the taxes to themselves. In the gospel of Mark, we see tax collectors put there right on the same line with sinners, the ones it was easy to place ones anger and hatred on.
Like these stories that God puts together so often, this line of Scripture did not fall without a cause, without a purpose. Because that day, my friend, I faced a major failure of my own — the one, when told to people, could have them look down on me just because these failures are not accepted in this society of ours, that strives on success and perfections, that calls for accepting everything while striking down anything not perfect, not in line with ones dreams of perfection.
I was not proud of this — never proud of my weaknesses and failures, never not shamed and completely wrecked by my shortcomings. But the knowledge of having to admit failure, is that brick walls built on your chest that steals the air from around you, makes it impossible to breathe and you know that this wall lets everyone see how the ground beneath is crumbling, how you are grumbling right there.
But there is the name, the example whispered soft to your heart because you know, you know that there is purpose beyond the pain and even now, on your knees with your expectations crushed, is where your heart bows right down low and something new can build roots.
The pain is there, this unstoppable circle of life that cannot be run away from, this slow unfurling of a hurt that rings deep. But it is never the end.
Because the soft whisper of a name — Matthew the tax collector — tells the story of a man hated and despised, of a man whose life changed by the simple phrase “Follow Me” and who knew, that to be identified by ones mistakes and failures, shortcomings and weaknesses? Is never the end, not in these stories written by our God. Because when God had called His twelve disciples to Him — the tax collectors and sinners, friends who would deny and betray, friends who would sleep through the hardest of His trials — He “gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.”
To speak out loud of your failures, to be identified by your mistakes — might not spell out brave in this broken world turned dark. But in God’s perspective, our confessed failures turn into victories won and our weakness only makes us strong.
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