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Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Thing Called "Faith:" PART 1

What My Faith Didn’t Tell Me
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” {Hebrews 11:1}

There are some things in life that just don’t seem to make any sense. Why in the world would we want to leave the “Golden State,” a beautiful new home, lots of family and friends, and a successful business behind? ...And at that, to move to a state known for rain (Yes, now I know why it is able to be called the "Evergreen State!"), to a town 1% the size of our city, where we knew hardly a soul and would be without any prospects of jobs or a place to live? Some might have thought we we're crazy. Some still think we we're crazy. I call it faith.

So, just what is faith? Over the past few years, I have had many opportunities to contemplate this very question. Faith is defined as, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Let me tell you, when you and your husband pack up all your belongings, move over 1,000 miles while being nearly eight months pregnant and with a toddler in tow, not knowing much at all about where you’re going or the full extent of why you are going there, I think that pretty much qualifies as “faith.”

We trusted God. We didn’t understand completely, but we knew He said “Go,” similarly to how God told Abraham to “Go.” Also, like Abraham, we weren’t given all the pieces of the puzzle as to where exactly we were going or why exactly we were going until we got here. Honestly, we still don’t have all those pieces, but I’d like to believe we’ve discovered a few more of them along this journey. The point is, we knew what God was telling us... that even though there were only a few pieces of the puzzle we knew at the time, God said, “Go,” so we went. We moved in complete trust; confident that God had something great in store for us.

What we didn’t know was the extent of what this calling was going to look like once we got here. We didn’t know that... 

...our house we were in the process of selling in California when we moved wouldn’t finish closing escrow until several months after it was scheduled to, leaving us without the ability to move forward in finding a new house.

...or that my husband wouldn’t be able to find work for over a year after we moved.

...or that we’d end up with an overgrown, empty piece of land instead of a house of our own. or that we’d use the last of our savings to purchase a fifth-wheel trailer to live in for the next four years, completely pioneering these four-and-a-half acres from square one.

...that we’d not only start out here without a house, but with no electricity, no well or septic system to boot.

My faith also didn’t tell me that I’d experience what it was like to be without running water for over a year or that I’d be toilet-training both of my children at some point during that time. I had no idea that for our first winter living in our trailer we’d experience what was said to be the worst winter in our county in years, with an absurd amount of snow and temperatures consistently in the single digits. Let me tell you, this was no comfy, cozy time for our family. You have all kinds of problems with a trailer in those conditions... frozen water pipes (think: no shower, no brushing your teeth, no washing dishes), frozen potty (umm... I’ll let you think on your own on this one!), critters invading to escape becoming frozen (yeah, I’ll let you think on that one too!)... you get the picture. Conditions grew so bad that we ended up ‘wintering’ with friends and family for several months until things ‘thawed out,’ and conditions improved enough so that we could return and carry on.

My faith didn’t tell me that I would have to watch my husband struggle to balance his day job, family life, and ministry, and manage to work on projects on our land that we desperately needed to get done in order for our living conditions to improve. I had no idea that I would witness him spending a grueling year of drilling for water on our land, to no avail... or that we would constantly struggle to make ends meet, let alone have any extra money to work on moving forward in preparing to build. My faith also didn’t clue me in that we would be completely devastated by not being able to qualify for a construction loan after working on our land for two years.

Raising a family is no easy task. Yet, my faith hadn’t told me that we'd be rearing our baby and toddler in close, confined quarters; in such a small, and, at times, oppressive space... It didn't tell me how in the world to keep our family organized and sane through the many challenges we faced as we attempted to keep moving forward. I had no idea that I'd struggle with ongoing bouts of depression and discouragement or that I’d have times when I felt our world would come crashing in at any moment... that we’d end up with no choice but to sheepishly return to our hometown... broke, defeated, and beyond humiliated.

But, let me tell you, there’s a whole lot more that my faith did tell me. It told me that it didn’t really matter how situations appeared and that I didn’t have to be overcome by the overwhelming circumstances and emotions I experienced. It told me that not only did God love me and accept me for who I was, but that I would have people surrounding me who would be a physical extension of that unconditional love. My faith told me that I didn’t have to be bound by obstacles that were in our way. It told me that if I really trusted God, I mean really trusted Him, I could have peace of mind and of heart. Not only that, but that God would use the people of His church as His body to be meet our ongoing needs of provision. My faith is what gave me hope and kept me going through the times when I thought, surely, I couldn’t go on another step. But step after step I began to take... until my faith became something that I walked.

My faith told me that I could trust God; that I could really trust Him. Time and again, as I took God at His Word, trusting Him to do what I’d seen Him do in the Bible and in the lives of other believers I knew, as my own trust in Him was tested, I found that He was so faithful! I discovered that He had gone before me, was walking beside me, and was even covering my tail! My trust in Him, this thing called faith, increased as I watched Him provide for us in miraculous ways, beyond anything I could ever imagine: groceries, gas, outstanding debts paid in full, clothing, and so much more! My faith began to take root and was nurtured each time I trusted Him and began to see the fruits of my faith.

The roots of my faith have spread more deeply now. I’ve discovered that faith becomes rooted in my belief that God has compassion on me, that He understands and cares about how I feel; in this, I find such great comfort. I can have faith in Him because I have come to understand that He is familiar with my suffering- the stress, the desolation, the anxiety, the exasperation, the pain, the loneliness. There have been many times when I believe He has cried with me, held me in His arms, and reassured me with gentle whispers of His love. Faith becomes firmly rooted when I've realized that this amazing, Creator God, this Master of the Universe, not only can see beyond what I can see, with a much bigger and better perspective, but that this same God, loves me... He has good plans for me... He holds my best interest at heart! He has more than earned my trust... He really is faithful!

This thing called “faith” works. In my next few blogs, I want to explore the subject of faith on a down-to-earth, practical level and talk about its applications and implications in our lives as believers. I’ll share some specific experiences with you in hopes that you might be encouraged and enriched in your own faith, and in hopes that you’ll join in the conversation with your own thoughts and do the same for other readers and myself.

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