I’ve never been very comfortable with change. I like my routines, I like knowing people and feel much more secure knowing what to expect. At the same time, I always felt most alive as the center forward on the soccer team rushing down the field past defenders no matter the bruises to my shins or tumbles along the way. That desire to be like Braveheart and “fight for Scotland” is born out of a clarity of vision and certainty of God’s Kingdom. Yet, the places He takes me to fight with confidence for His Kingdom (most currently: parenthood and as a minority neighbor) are the unfamiliar, the unexpected, the uncertain environments where my insecurity is more tangible than my faith. The tension between the two is disorienting and it seems that I am quicker to fall into unbelief and paralysis than to announce like Braveheart, “They may take my life, but they will never take my freedom!” I’ve had increased anxiety at bedtime doubting everything and feeling totally lost and alone. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Cor. 13:9-12
I am feeling the “partly-ness” of my faith…and it robs all my security, confidence and courage. I walk around the block in our neighborhood with my children and dog, smiling at folks going into a house on the corner likely just to buy drugs. They smile back, but keep turning to watch me wondering if I’m a threat or simply a curiosity. We met three other guys carrying a stereo into their house on the next street over. They were ostensibly friendly and we had some smiley small talk, and then they too kept watching me as we walked on. My eyes are fixed on the unfamiliar, my mind reeling with uncertainty about how to interpret “reality”…is it really as different as all that I’ve known or is this just an extension of the centuries of distrust, cynicism and division that is easier than the discomfort I am feeling now? What will “completeness coming” look like here?
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18
It is this belief that “what is seen is temporary” that drives me to parent my children for the people God has made them to be rather than lose hope in the moments I see more of my own sin in them than His righteousness. It is this belief that what is unseen is eternal that drives us to live for peace and reconciliation in a society that has long given up truly believing that many different parts make up the one complete body of His Kingdom. It is believing that the unseen redemption of all things is more true than the seen brokenness and division around us that brought us to this neighborhood. So how does the Gospel make this truth more certain to my heart than the fears which grip it, more visible to my gaze than the strange and unfamiliar sights which capture my attention, and more audible to my thoughts than the voices of skepticism which implore resignation?
Here is what the person and work of Jesus reminds me about sharing in His life, death and resurrection: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
I am so very easily entangled by sin and way too easily hindered by fear and uncertainty. But like Peter stepping out of the boat, would He draw my eyes to His face and away from the dark, deep, threatening waters. And when I begin to sink, would I trust that even then He has me in His grip and is perfecting my faith in all circumstances and in all my varied responses to them. But I will consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners so that I will not grow weary and lose heart. Even as the curse from the Garden reminds me of my inclination to trust myself, trust my perceptions and trust only in what I can see, I will trust that His blessings are more sure in the promise and completed work of Jesus than in any “familiar comforts” where I might otherwise seek such peace and blessing.
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:5-8