Faith isn’t lived from the miraculous to the miraculous. Sure, Moses’ had an experience of the Burning Bush, but his faith in God only grew in the 40-year slog of an everyday journey. More often than not, our faith is couched in the ordinary. Our faith grows amid a life where nothing miraculous seemingly take place. Why, then, do we make such miraculous experiences the definitive mark of faith?
God used the roundabouts, the twists and the turns, as avenues for growth. It was in their perceived lostness that Israel experienced the blessings of God in profound ways. And, in each step of way God proved faithful. Eventually, Israel got to where they were going; as did we.
It would be years before I came across that reading again and the reminder of a prayer I lost the hope to pray. A prayer that God answered in a way I could never have imagined. My dear ones had not only made peace, but now laughed together and cared for one another.
If you are like me, the mere suggestion that we might say no to a request, particularly in the church, raises all sorts of objections. “I can’t do that – people are counting on me”, we might say. Yet what if this is but a mask? What if our refusal to say no is keeping us from going deeper in our relationship with the Lord? Like Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet, what if Jesus wants us to say no to other demands? What if Jesus is calling people to count on him and not on us?
A faith which fails to value the struggle and the wrestling seems insufficient and even irrelevant to our everyday lives where we battle cancer, financial insecurities, loss of loved ones, mental health struggles, and a host of other challenges. God’s people, in fact, were named as those who wrestle.
The not-will of God can be a hard reality to accept, even harder to live out; yet ultimately, the fact that God’s will is beyond our individual preferences or desires is a good thing. God’s vision for our lives is not based on our prowess or ability.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
I once sat with an elderly gentleman who told me that whenever he would step out of line, his father would wag his finger and declare “God will get you for that.” He heard this phrase so often that it stuck with him, becoming the very basis of his picture of God. Despite his years in the church, the countless sermons he listened to, and the hours spent in prayer and ministry, he couldn’t unhear a message of condemnation. It was like a bell that could not be un-rung.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that God blesses everyone else but you? Have you ever felt that, despite your best efforts, you can never climb the spiritual heights needed to “earn” your place in God’s good graces? Henri Nouwen once wrote that the greatest danger to our spiritual lives is our self-rejection.
Forgiving ourselves begins with Christ’s forgiveness. His grace quenches our thirst. He understands our human conditions, creates community, and ultimately calls us to lay down your guilt and regrets. It is finished. We are free.