That photo is what faith looks like. It’s not exactly sexy, I’ll give you that, and the more strident among us might notice the lack of a bible or cross or other Christian call sign. But it is the epitome of what it means to live by faith in God: my family, using only the tools on that table (including the table itself), is making a living. God opens doors, some large, some small, some now, some in the future, and we walk through them. It’s faith on a level I’ve never lived it, and brother – I’ve lived a bit. Yet for all of that, we’re happy, we believe that God is with us, and we are absolutely terrified.
But, you know, in a good way.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I believe and why since I left vocational ministry. Now that I don’t have to tell others what they need to believe, I’m free to explore what I do believe, and what I’m discovering is that I believe in a whole lot of me and whole little of God. Me faith finds its root in security, rules, right-and-wrong, black-and-white, clear-eyed judgment on things that ultimately mean little. Me faith is being wound so tight that my joy suffocates. Me faith means dreading each day because it requires another piece of my soul as payment for getting back to my bed at night. Me faith, to be blunt, sucks.
And it’s what a lot of us live. At least, that’s what I’m hearing from more and more people.
Why am I hearing this? Because I’m talking more and more about God faith, which finds its root in the person and character of God, and leaves the rules, the right-and-wrong, the clear-eyed judgment in his capable hands (where it belongs). God faith is being so free that I feel like I’m suffocating, but I’m actually breathing deeply for the first time in decades, and my sense of joy is tingling like a limb finally getting good circulation. And as I talk about this God faith, this trust fall into insecurity and terror, more and more people seem interested in the journey. They ask questions. They tell me I look lighter, as if a weight has been lifted. They tell me I seem happier, more me, more alive.
Then they tell me they could never do it. Nuh-uh, no way, not a chance in hell. Too scary. Too risky. Too whatever.
I don’t judge. I’ve been there. I understand. Heck, depending on what time of day you catch me, it’s me still – though usually, it’s at it’s worst when I look at the bank balance. That’s when I realize that my god before was money in the bank, security, control over the uncontrolled chaos that swarms outside the door. I stare at a bank balance that lacks enough funds to pay the car note (due soon) or the mortgage (due not as soon, but close enough) or the health insurance (due always, it feels like), and I begin to shake. I feel undone. I panic at the desktop and feel the urge to send out 10,000 resumes and emails and phone calls and MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN in order to avoid the 10 minutes or so that I feel forgotten and abandoned.
Sometimes, I give into that urge. Other times I stop and pray. Quite often, I just breathe, deeply and quickly. And when I opt to pray or breathe (and they seem to be the same in some cases), I find that the 10 minutes not only pass easier, but they make the next panic moment easier to overcome too. When I get into the habit of sending out 10,000, 000 resumes, that simply means I have to dig harder the next panic moment to find jobs for which I’ve not already applied.
And believe me: there aren’t many of those left.
This faith thing isn’t easy. It would be stupid to think otherwise – after all the very concept itself is rooted in uncertainty. You can’t know, so you have to go on faith. There’s not enough evidence to remove all doubt, but there’s enough to believe, and in believing not be made a complete fool. Living by faith means living each day comfortable with jumping across chasms. Sometimes they’re small chasms, sometimes they’re freaking huge. But leaping across them beats laying down on your belly, staring down into the chasm, contemplating what the splat will sound like when you hit bottom.
Leaping beats laying down any day.
That’s why, every day since May 19th, I’ve sat down at my kitchen table with my laptop, my books, my drink and my God. It’s a leap into a life that I’ve preached about but not really lived. The mortgage will still be due soon. The car payment too. But I have faith that the God who keeps the universe from collapsing in on itself can keep me from self-immolation too. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, and in the end, really, faith is all any of us have.
It’s just a matter of what we place that faith in.