"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Faith and greeting cards

Right now, I'm sitting in a cottage in a little town in New Hampshire. So quaint, so lovely. I am surrounded by beauty here: the wild daisies growing in the rolling meadow out back, the cool breeze, the lovely bird calls, the smell of the blooming rose bush while visiting the neighbors, and the purple mountain against the setting sun at dusk. Absolutely gorgeous. Tomorrow I'll be driving into Boston with my grandparents and a couple that lives next door. We will explore the Freedom Trail and soak in some classic American history while they go to some appointments, then meet up for some good old New England seafood on the bay. Perfection. I am so excited to explore a city I've never been to! One night earlier this week, when I was still in Waco, I went to Fort Worth for a night to have dinner and spend some quality time with my sweet friend Monica. As we talked over one of my favorite meals in the entire world (the grilled salmon from Brio in Southlake Town Square... Incredible.), we tossed around our recent thoughts and revelations about faith. We had both felt the Lord stirring something in us dealing with the idea of faith. As I've been reflecting on the conceps of faith and grace and hope, I have been realizing how insane they are. Seriously. Crazy. Doesn't make sense. Completely blows my mind. I keep coming back to the most simple, basic verse when it comes to faith: Hebrews 11:1. It's one of those verses you memorize in VBS and actually seems to stick with you through the years because it really is that simple. But is it?
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
I've heard this verse, these words for my entire life, but I still cannot get my mind around the vastness of what they mean. The idea of having "faith" is trendy right now. "Faith" is used as such a broad term in the world, and probably in the Church, too. "Faith" is a system of beliefs ("the Christian faith"), or trying to muster up enough personal willpower or courage to do something hard ("Just have faith! You can do it."), or a word to express confidence in something or someone ("I have faith that you'll do the right thing."). While I do think that we need to check our word usage, that's not what I'm getting after. I think that we've softened faith into "faith". We've taken something that because of is very nature we cannot fully understand, and forced it to share a word with a soft, trendy, NICE, comfortable, substanceless idea. We can't actually understand what faith actually is, so we cheapen it into something we can... A nice, quaint sentiment we can stick on a greeting card. We were made for more than nice sentiment. You and I were made to live in the greatest adventure that has ever been. We were made for JESUS, not greeting card "faith". When life comes, and it will, and threatens to tear my world apart, the greeting card sentiments will not mean a thing. The cheap faith and the cheap grace I've tried to convince myself were substantial will be revealed for what they truly are: hollow, empty words on an overpriced, fading piece of card stock. They will fail me, but Jesus will not. I want the faith that leads to more and more and more and more of Jesus. But if "faith" is cheap, what does that make Faith? Expensive. Costly. Faith is pricey, because it requires that we forgo our "right" to understand and to see. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Sounds great on a card (now that I've run that analogy into the ground...), but when it's applied to life, its a little more difficult to swallow. For me right now, my faith is being stretched and expanded by me choosing to believe and accept what Jesus says about me, even if I don't see those things in myself. I am generally inclined towards wanting to have control over my life and I don't like doing things without calculating the risks and rewards. But in life with Jesus, those "righs" are no longer mine. I don't need to see the end, or even the next step in this season of life, but trust that He sees it as He's guiding me. This is a journey of FAITH for me, because as I choose to trust Jesus in what I believe and the direction of my life, I am forsaking what I see with my eyes, and am choosing to believe even when I can't see. Which is so. Hard. For me, at least. Hey, maybe you've got the faith thing down. I don't. It is hard every day to choose joy over disappointment, even when what I see is disappointing. Honestly, it is hard to believe that I am pursued when I feel like I'm not. And when all I want to do is make a bunch of plans for my life, it is really hard to obey Jesus and in faith wait for His timing and direction. When it comes to "bible characters" and the idea of faith, I instantly think of Abraham and Sarah. If you don't know their story, look it up. Their story is INSANE... Once we get past the stigma of the "bible character" syndrome (forgetting that biblical people aren't just characters in a cool book, they were real people who actually lived the stories we hear. So when we read how many years they waited for their child, maybe we'll gain a little better perspective.). Long, long story short, God promised Abe and Sarah a child. At the time of the promise, Abe was really old, beyond the age of conceiving a child, and Sarah was also old and had always been barren. It sounded so ridiculous that Sarah actually laughed when God promised Abraham. Then came the waiting. And more waiting. They're only getting older, how can God's promise actually come to pass? Were they out of their minds to actually believe that God would do something so great to them? Did they actually believe God told them that? Come on, be realistic, Sarah. I can almost hear the mockery, the disbelief of their friends and family. But then.
"BY FAITH Abraham, even though he was past age-- and Sarah herself was barren-- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise." Heb 11:11
By faith. Because HE is faithful to His word. He is who He says He is, so Abraham trusted Him. Would I be one who knows the character of God so intimately that I have no option but to trust Him and consider all other voices, all of the mocking and nagging of the world and the enemy, as what they are-- but a passing mist that will soon be dispersed by the burning Light of Jesus. Would I choose His truth over what I see with my eyes, trusting that He is who He says He is.

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