The Weird Peace of Faith

I wrote a book called Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives, in which I describe how “crazy faith” can and does propel people to do amazing things.  Faith doesn’t make sense, it is not logical, but it brings stability to unstable situations and gives sight where the circumstances at hand would beg blindness.

Then, this morning, I heard Rev. Lance Watson describe “courageous faith,” a faith that made the Biblical character Joshua tell the sun to stand still so that the Israelites could face their enemies. Whoever heard of such? And yet, courageous (crazy) faith makes people staunchly believe in something greater than themselves, and in standing on that belief, beat incredible odds.

Faith, it seems, gives people courage, the “courage to be,” as Paul Tillich describes. The very last line of his book, The Courage to Be, reads: “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”

The anxiety of doubt comes when we are in the midst of the most scary, the most traumatic situations of our lives. We wonder where God is, if God hears, if God cares …I imagine the slaves in America wondered about the presence and goodness  of God as they endured that horrible institution; I imagine, as well, that Jews, suffering under the brutality and insanity of Adolph Hitler during the Holocaust, wondered the same thing…”Would God allow such evil?”

And yet, it seems, God does allow evil, and the courage to be means that one is able to hold onto his or her belief in God “in spite of” one’s situation.

As a pastor, I have seen many a person struggle with the whole notion of the goodness of God, the presence of God, and the purposes of God. Why would God allow an innocent child to die of brain cancer, or a beloved mother to die an early and brutal death? Years ago, I watched a young mother struggle with her idea of God as she mourned, in excruciating pain, the death of her teen son who was murdered in a drive-by shooting. In the recent unrest in the Middle East, I can imagine mothers and fathers both in Gaza and in Israel wondering why God would allow such evil – the evil of war caused by people who will not listen to each other – to exist and to flourish.

God does allow evil.  That is a bitter pill to swallow.

But there is something weird about faith, because even in the midst of going through and suffering through abject evil, those who have faith experience a “weird” peace, the “peace that passes all understanding.”  After a while, the person filled with faith has an ability to surrender doubt into the unknown. He or she is not aware of where the anxiety of doubt is going; one only knows that yesterday, he or she was upset and worried, and today, the worry, the anxiety, is gone.

And that is in spite of the fact that God allows evil to be.

We might feel better if God put a hand in front of all evil and all discomfort that confronts us, but God doing that would not necessarily increase our faith. Faith actually comes in the enduring and survival of, evil in our lives. Evil comes at us like a giant Tsunami, sometimes stunning us in its ferocity and intensity, and if we can find ourselves standing when the giant wave of evil passes back into the sea, we find that our faith in God increases. Somewhere in the midst of the fury of the evil that sometimes boxes our spirits, if we get to that place of weird peace, we are able to ride the evil and not allow ourselves to be consumed by it.

Evil is strong and distasteful, but God is greater than any evil. That does not mean that God prevents evil; we have already established that God allows evil, and we may never understand why …but in the end, God really is greater than evil.

Maybe that’s why faith is so perplexing. Anyone who has experienced a weird peace in the midst of adversity knows exactly what I am talking about …

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: Becoming

I have decided that in 2012, every Thursday I will write an article just for us girls.

I’m going to call it “Girl Talk.”

And today, I want to ask a question: By this time next year, how do you want your life to look? Where do you want to be? What do you want to be doing?

The phrase “by this time next year” was brought to my attention via a sermon preached by Rev. Lance Watson, who preached a sermon entitled the same.  Taken from the story of Abraham and Sarah, who were old and childless, the Lord tells them that they will have children.

They are old; it says in the 18th chapter of Genesis that “they were already old and well advanced in years, yet this promise to them was made by God. “I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah your wife will have a son.

Sarah was past the age of childbearing and she laughs; God hears her and asks why?  He confronts Abraham, asking  “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old” Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

That sermon stayed with me, as did the question, and I have begun a women’s group here in Columbus called “Becoming.”  The driver for the group is the statement, “By this time next year…” and the women have decided what they want and how they will get there “by this time next year.”

The idea behind the question and the work that we are doing is that we women, too many of us, are not even close to being what God created us to be. We have thwarted ourselves by comparing ourselves to other people; we carry low self esteem like it’s a part of our anatomy; we are not able to love ourselves and so our love relationships suffer.  The fact is that too many of us do not realize who we are, and how innately gifted we are.

We need to “become” the people God created us to be.

I watched Michele Bachmann bow out of the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, and though I do not agree with her politics, it seems to me that she is a woman who has “become.”  She has chutzpah and convictions and she is a bulldog in staying her course, in spite of sexism and all the other things she as a woman in man’s world has to face.  She fought to be heard by media which really didn’t want to treat her as a serious candidate; she made herself heard.

She has “become” who God made her to be, and is still “becoming.” Think of what this world would be if more of us women would become.

Way too many of us stayed covered and protected, in cocoons or pupae, like butterflies or moths waiting to “become” the beauties that they are. There are a lot of reasons for that, but whatever the reason or reasons, we need to shed them.

The women in the group I began are moving. It is so inspiring to see! They are pushing out of their cocoons, trying things they always wanted to but were afraid to try. They are applying for jobs they always wanted to apply for, working to get their poetry published, no longer afraid of rejection. They are realizing that they have gifts that they have never used, and I can see them putting little toes in the water.Some of them by now are standing in the water they were afraid to even look at several months ago.

One of the members’ original goal was to have a husband “by this time next year.” Now, however, she has changed her goal. She is owning the fact that she has a gift for interior decorating and she is determined that by this time next year, she will be on her way to being able to do that as a living, something she loves and is passionate about. As she has made that decision, her spirit has resonated and she is actually drawing to herself clients who recognize her gifts and who want to use her.

She is “becoming.” She is pushing out of her cocoon. It is so exciting to watch!

Nobody in the group is allowed to just say what they will “be.” They are required to report on their progress on a monthly basis.

And so, if you asked yourself “by this time next year what do I want to be?” what would your answer be?  Ask yourselves the question, and see if it doesn’t empower you.

Final thought: I am pushing out of my cocoon, too!

A candid observation…