When Faith Isn’t Tidy

Not long ago, I sat grieving the loss and celebrating the life of a sister gone too soon.

We weren’t close, really.  But she loved Jesus in a straightforward way that I admire.

I didn’t know how to feel, at all.  I am so not good at feelings.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about how faith isn’t always tidy.

How it can share space with hard questions and big feelings and all the loose ends of life that we wish Jesus would tie up already.

Maybe you’re hanging out in that middle place tonight too.

It’s ok.

We’re in good company.

When the story of David’s life is told, the line that resonates is this:

He was a man after God’s own heart.  (Acts 13:22)

But this father of the faith was also a mess.

A lying, emotive, vengeful, overconfident, many-times-rescued, not-as-many-times faithful mess.

When he finds that the town where he left his family has been burned to the ground and they are nowhere to be found, he settles down to weep until he literally has no more strength, no more tears left in him. (1 Samuel 30)

And then, once again afraid for his life, he finds strength in the Lord his God.

The word means to grasp, to seize.

I feel like this sometimes.

Like my only option is to cling for dear life to the One who has proven himself faithful.

Sometimes faith looks like this.

Like being reduced to a weeping puddle on the floor.

Like running for your life and grasping wildly for a strength bigger than your own.

Like falling again, surrendering again to the rescue, the Rescuer you so desperately need.

This part of his story, too, has a happy ending.

Pursue, God said, and David brought everyone back.  Every last one.

Wailing into dancing.

Itchy sackcloth into unbridled joy.  (Psalm 30:11)

And so.

If you are in the middle place tonight.

Holding space for feelings and questions and general untidiness right alongside stubborn (or maybe threadbare) belief.

Know this.

It doesn’t mean you are unfaithful.

It doesn’t mean you need to try harder.  Or pretend better that everything is ok.

It just means that the story of your life isn’t finished yet, dear one.

You too can find strength in the author of the best stories.

The one who can speak over your many-times-rescued, not-as-many-times faithful life:

This one, too, had a heart that beat like mine.

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Radiant

Our unlikely hero has fallen from grace.

Lies piled on lies, feigning madness to escape with his life, he finds himself in a cave. (1 Samuel 22)

And it’s there… dark, damp, a million miles from the adulation he once knew, that he pens these words.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame.  (Psalm 34:5)

If there ever were a time for shame, it’s now.

And yet.

David, our great, flawed hero knew God not just in the cheers and songs of giants defeated.

He knew him here too.

Here in this lonely place of his own making.

Here in this honest place, no one left to impress.

Do you want to know a secret?  I don’t always understand the God of the Old Testament.

But here, in the cave, he feels familiar,

This redeemer that David knew, this radiance-maker, this shame-defeater.

I know him on the cross, this redeemer.  Taking the punishment that I deserved.

I’ve known him too, in the fog of darkness when all is not well, in the ugly cries and the ache too big, when only the prayers of the righteous dragged me off the floor.

I don’t know where you are this week, friends.

But this I know…

If you’re basking in the glow of defeated giants, look to him.  You are radiant.  Your face is not covered in shame.

If you’re cowering in a cave, feeling like you’ve fallen from grace, look to him.  You too are radiant.  Maybe in a tear-stained, wild-eyed sort of way, but radiant nonetheless.  Your face is not covered in shame.

If you’re in a lonely place of your own making or an honest place with no one left to impress,

Shame will yell loud.

It will fight to define you.

But, friends, shame is lying.

If you know the Redeemer that David knew, your face is not covered in shame.

Look to him.  Fall on him.  Cling to him.

Embrace your true identity, beloved.

Be radiant.

On Giants and Unlikely Heroes

He was as unlikely a hero as one could imagine.

The would-be king overlooked even by his own father…

Aren’t there any more sons? the prophet asked. (1 Samuel 16:10)

Only the littlest one.

The one out tending the sheep.

The one bringing snacks to the soldiers on the front lines.

The one naïve enough to think he could face a giant with a slingshot.

Too small.

Too inexperienced.

Too naïve.

Except.

Called by his Creator, anointed by the prophet, the Spirit of the Lord came upon this unlikely hero in power.

Forcefully.

Propelling him hard in the direction of God’s own heart.

Drawing him into unwinnable battles with confidence that his God would deliver.

We know the rest of the story, right?

Just like he does time and again with his unlikely heroes, God shows up.

I don’t know what giant you are facing this week.

Maybe you feel like this too.

Too small.

Too inexperienced.

Too naïve.

Know this, friends…

You too are called by your Creator and anointed by Messiah.

The same Spirit that propelled this unlikely hero toward God’s heart is available for you.  For us.

Let’s not be too quick to shrug off that calling, or to let someone else dress us up in ill-fitting armor.

Let’s give our God a chance to show up forcefully in the battles that we’ve written off as unwinnable.

Let’s give him a chance to knock out some giants.