Faith


Like many people, my thoughts at this time are influenced by the current media attention to hope and change. There have been references to the beginning of a new story, the opportunity to change the narrative in which this nation lives.

As a nation, we need this opportunity for a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to begin anew and to walk in a different direction. For our country, this new story will occur in the face of incredible obstacles. In spite of new hope, the economic, social, and political circumstances in our nation have never been more grim.

What about for us personally? Can we just decide to rewrite our story, or are we stuck in whatever story we find ourselves in?

That’s the essence of repentance, isn’t it. Not so much the shame of remorse – although there may be significant regrets – but the decision to step into a new story.

But first, we must have hope that a new story is possible. Where do we find that hope?

When the circumstances around us are difficult, it is easy to give in to a sense of hopelessness and despair, particularly when the obstacles seem insurmountable. Are we confined to these circumstances? Is this the only story possible for us?

I doggedly explored the nooks and crannies of all that I hoped for, but those dreams were disconnected from my reality, unattainable. I know the the pain of disappointment when dreams are beyond your grasp. The fruit of hope eventually becomes bitter.

When did we quit believing that our story is good? This is not much different than the Israelites in their fickleness toward God, angry at Him for the difficulty of the journey, unable to believe the possibility of a better outcome, not trusting the overall goodness of His intentions.

Many mornings this winter, I stood in my kitchen trying to remind myself that God is faithful and God is good while the pain and suffering of people around me blasted like the December winds, rattling the windows of my hope.

A veteran of harsh winters, I am familiar with the holding pattern of endurance, waiting for better days. But happy endings are not true of every story. At the threshold of 2009, I no longer looked expectantly to the horizon. I convinced myself to focus on what is immediately in front of me.

I know that death is a pre-requisite to resurrection. I suspect the death of hopefulness in my own heart is likely part of God’s process in me. However I am cynical enough to believe that dead might just be dead in the arena of dreams and that many who dream are simply naive, not yet wizened to the harsher realities of life.

I have been thinking a lot about the place of hope and dreams in the life of a believer. What will come along in my life to convince me that hope is possible, that it is not only okay, but necessary to dream again? Somewhere beneath my flimsy faith in good outcomes is a solid trust in the God who loves.

How much does my belief determine the story I will write? While belief alone may not be enough to change the difficulty of our circumstances, it is the first step forward if we want to find ourselves in a story beyond what we see. We might even call it faith.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Maybe it’s time to once again believe in the possibility of a new story.

The thought of stepping into that belief feels as uncertain as stepping onto an icy pond in March. But hey, you never know.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Faith

  1. I am amazed at what Father is doing with all of us “gratefully disillusioned” ones in blowing our misconceptions out of the water. It’s like we have been chasing after all these things we thought were IT – and we get a hold of it and are like “hey, this is not what I was looking for!” And then we see God is standing there over our shabby heap of broken dreams with a bemused expression on His face as if to say, “Are you done chasing your fantasies? Are you ready for something real yet?”

    I have a long-winded post in regards to this which may be relevant (or not depending on what Father is doing in you right now):

    http://oikosnwa.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-year-of-brokenness-healing.html

  2. Grace your post today brought back to my mind that a few years ago I was so hopeless that my husband would have to keep telling me, “You won’t always feel like this.” Every single time I’d reply, “But what if I do?” He’d always say the same thing: “You won’t.” It amazes me in looking back how that simple exchange gave me just enough to hope to think that maybe, just maybe, I would feel differently one day, or have dreams again, etc.

    That day came to me three months ago and life is now in vibrant color and the shades of gray and loss of story are gone, but I still remember what it feels like to be there.

    So, Grace, I say to you today: “You won’t always feel this way!”

    Tracy

  3. I have been so intent on following Christ these past couple of years that almost all of my devotional time has been spent in the gospels. I think I got so close to the trees that I lost sight of the forest. So, just this week I ‘felt led’ (sorry) to go back to the OT. I turned to the book of Ecclesiates and began a slow meditative read. Wow! Talk about perspective! It’s proven to have been very helpful for where I was at – I guess God gave us the entire narrative of His Word for a reason. We can never appreciate the true beauty of a diamond without turning it once in awhile to see how the various facets break up the light into something incredibly dazzling.

  4. This is a good question Grace:

    “When did we quit believing that our story is good?”

    I have had difficulty seeing our lives as ‘good’ since my wife got wheelchaired over a year ago. I think that, for me anyway, I have to let go of our old life and my expectation of our future life to embrace hope.

  5. Grace, it sound like you are in need of a Purple Dream, sister. I’ll loan you my glasses and you can come along! Did you see Alan Hirsch’s post on the yellow brick road? You can be Dorothy…or the Lion ;) … I’m feeling more like the Scarecrow these days!

    Shalom, sister….

  6. did you see the story about the little dog in Indiana who got stuck on the ice in a river? Your last sentence made me think of her. And how that’s where it feels like I’m living. Good words, Grace. You keep them coming- at least until I find some again!

  7. Grace,
    Poignant words. In deconstructing what was handed to me I have finally begun to construct a theology that makes sense in light of the God I see moving through the gospels preaching a faith that includes rather than excludes. I have exchanged my “beliefism” filled with dogma and exclusion with a new way of believing where I actually try to “practice” a faith that joins God in His Story that is still being written, I will borrow a phrase from a friend, “beliefs gone good”…

    I would be willing to bet that in your winter of faith there is a beautiful seed of faith that is being birthed that will enable you to step into the dreams and hopes that God has deposited in you from the moment you were formed. You are on a path that will lead you into the things that I hope bring you great joy and will take great faith.

    Thank you for your words.

  8. As one of my participants so clearly stated: “Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience. I hope it will become part of a fabric of hope and comfort for others escaping oppressive situations that challenge their faith.”

    Our experiences can be part of the ‘fabric of hope and comfort’ that significantly provides hope for others. We are reminded of the good word in 2 Cor. 1:3-5.

    Rose, I like your phrase, ‘I have finally begun to construct a theology….’ which is based on the God of the gospels….
    That is rich and deep and freeing.

    Yes, and all kinds of things are happening while winter is happening. I was out in the fog again, but this time marveling at the hoar frost on everything. Although cold, it was a great photo opp and a time for reflection on the awe at hand–right in my neighborhood!

  9. Grace, one more thing. I just read something that Darin Hufford wrote that made me think of you:

    “You have to literally divorce your mind from the god you were raised with if you ever want to know the one true God. Most of us spend a lifetime trying to fix our broken image of Him, when in reality, we need to throw it all away and start from scratch.”

    I think you were saying the same thing when you wrote: “I know that death is a pre-requisite to resurrection.”

    Well, just wanted to share that, sort of an amen to where you are at in your journey.

  10. Hi alex,
    Thanks for sharing the link. That is a wonderful post. I believe that I read portions of it at Barb’s blog. I don’t believe that I have many expectations left, and I am actually quite at peace (ie comfortable) with that. However, I also believe that it is the Spirit that urges me to consider expectation. I don’t know.

    tracy,
    This post was actually me being hopeful. :)
    You wouldn’t want to see the gray posts.

    ken,
    I agree that the Lord uses all of Scripture and the changing circumstances of our lives to continue to reveal Himself to us and to add to the multi-facets of our faith.

    bob,
    I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee and learn how your faith has grown when at times life is so dang hard. I am quite certain that there is a well of wisdom within you that many of us could learn from.

    It seems we do have to let go of expectations of what we wished for in order to embrace the possibility of a good and hopeful story that may include difficult circumstances and pain.

    When pat answers and easy beliefism doesn’t work, we have to mature into a faith that doesn’t fall apart in the face of unanswered prayers and absence of miracles. This is where I find myself, just trying to grow up.

    peggy,
    I know that you understand Purple. I appreciate the wisdom and encouragement that you faithfully share with me.

    cindy,
    I didn’t see the story about the puppy. However, when I allow myself to consider hoping, the image of stepping onto a frozen puddle is what comes to mind, the bending, watery creaking of ice that is about to give away under your foot. (You might not see that much in Alabama.)

    rose,
    While I have no doubt of the goodness of God, I am less certain of good outcomes, the role of prayer and faith. I was chatting with Robbymac recently and I joked that if I were in trouble, I would rather have a word-of-faith person praying for me than a post-charismatic.

    As you write your story, I’ve been thinking about you and all of this. I don’t doubt God’s redemptive hand in the pain of our past. However, I no longer believe that we have exemption from current or future pain. I am re-working my theology of faith.

    As far as the faith to dream, that’s a little shaky right now.

    barb,
    Great picture. I have seen my experience providing hope for others who experience spiritual abuse. That is also what I meant in my response above to Bob. I know that he has experience that others can draw hope from. That is a beautiful aspect of body life isn’t it, where the suffering of one is used to bring comfort and hope to others.

  11. Grace, I love this comment you wrote: “When pat answers and easy beliefism doesn’t work, we have to mature into a faith that doesn’t fall apart in the face of unanswered prayers and absence of miracles. This is where I find myself, just trying to grow up.”

    I think that is exactly what is happening in thousands and thousands of believers across the world right now, and from that standpoint it’s been a real gift to get us to this place.

    Man, I love that sentence!

  12. Grace I am just back from a vacation in Tenerife.I can identify with all your thoughts.I have been suffering from chronic laryngitis for 4 months now and the doctors I have seen play the usual trick of not really saying what might be wrong.My superheated prophetic immagination thinks the worst and while on holiday I felt huge waves of lostness and despair wash over me as my symptoms got worse.I have felt that God has been playing a cruel joke on me and clearing off to do things with others.I felt abandoned by God and cried like a baby to my wife thinking I was on the way out.We went to a doctor in Playa de Las Americas in Tenerife.As I bawled and broke down in front of her this little Cuban doctor spoke the word of the Lord to me.It was powerful and made me cry even more.’Don’t worry.I will help you.’ together with my first ever hug from a doctor caused the love of God to flow deep into my insides.Father or an angel had turned up again in the shape of a little petite Cuban doctor.On leaving her surgery after my last visit I asked about a strang picture on her wall.She said she had been given a picture of Jesus by a previous patient whom she had helped.Her name was Corra which is Spanish for ‘Heart’.I told her she had the heart of Jesus and his compassion.I think this is whwere he dwells for all us broken ministry addicts.Grace may He find you in your weakness and darkness.

  13. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are”.

    This is so helping me and just wanted to share it with you, with all its implications.

  14. There is such a wonderful post on Frank Viola’s site, that after praying about it for the past 24 hours, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to me” to tell you about it. As I type this, am praying the Lord will provide some quiet moments for you to read it — from my heart to yours, from Frank’s heart to ours, from God’s heart to us all:

    http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/he-takes-away-that-he-might-establish/

    joy and peace to you

  15. Thanks Tracy. That is a topic that I would like to explore further. Rob has some good stuff in Post-Charismatic about functional atheism as an over-reaction to easy beliefism. I have been thinking about those ideas for several months, particularly on a personal level, and there is more I would like to write about sometime.

    Charlie,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry that you’ve been suffering. I can relate to the feeling of being discarded. Maybe I have more to learn about weakness.

    ali,
    That’s the bottom line isn’t it, resting in the Father’s love. Thanks for sharing that encouragement.

    joanne,
    That was a good post. I read it several times and emailed the link to some friends of mine. It is long, but well worth the time taken to read it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s