“…faith isn’t the absence of doubt. It’s believing and acting alongside your doubts…
…faith wouldn’t even exist if doubt were not also present, because the essence of faith was the leap taken in the face of uncertainty. Faith wasn’t a set of beliefs, or an ability to hold onto those beliefs without wavering. Faith was action – action taken right in the middle of your doubts.
If there were no uncertainty at all, a leap of faith wouldn’t even be necessary. You could just keep on walking.
from O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling
by Jason Boyett
I used to think that doubt was evidence of a lack of faith.
Not so much anymore.
These days, I’d probably say I’m a bit of a “doubt snob.” By that, I mean that when I hear a Christian say they’ve never doubted God, I would wonder if:
1) they are lying. (let’s just get that one right out of the way)
2) they have forgotten. (kinda like childbirth. The memory of that kinda pain fades with time)
3) they haven’t actually thought things through. (see what I mean? “doubt snob”)
I’ve spent my life trying to figure things out. If God ever gave me a new name, it probably would have been “Madua” (in Hebrew, it means “why”…what is the reason…what is the cause). I’ll pull and follow a “why” thread as far as I possibly can go.
In all the question asking and thread following and reading and learning and studying I’ve done so far in my life, the one fact I know for sure:
Not everything can be known for sure.
What do I do with that?
Do I only take action if I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the action will result in success?
Do I only believe in God if I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that He exists?
No one can prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God exists. I can’t prove that God answered a prayer. Or led me to a decision. Or provided an opportunity. Or equipped me for one of those opportunities.
So, again. What do I do with that?
In the absence of certainty, I choose to act or not act.
Personally, I choose faith in God. I can have some faith in myself or in “the system” or in other people, but at some point, they’ve all let me down. I can have some faith in reason and science, but when you drill down to their root, neither can be employed to prove their own foundational claims without some core assumptions as their bedrock.
Assumption is a synonym for faith.
We all have faith in something. And we all act on our faith, in spite of our doubt.
“I don’t know that Lucifer’s sin was rebellion in the full sense of the word. He did not seek to replace God or overthrow God. He simply sought to act independent of God…
the root sin of all sins is this desire to act independent of God.” (emphasis added)
by Steve Fry
I don’t use the word “sin” much.
Not that I don’t believe it exists and that I’m prone to it.
I believe it does and I know that I am.
It’s just one of those words that has too many interpretations to be used effectively in casual conversation.
(I don’t use the word “Christian” so much either. Way, WAY too many interpretations of THAT word.)
In certain company, if I were to utter the word sin, I would find myself standing all alone holding my own personal (Jesus) Freak Flag, listening to crickets.
Because not many people want to talk about the word sin. But when you don’t talk about something, meaning begins to take on more and more personal connotations. Definitions aren’t globally understood and accepted when they’re formed and sequestered inside a vacuum of individual history and experience.
“Sin” can mean different things to different people. But my thought is that before the word sin means something to me, it means something.
When I think about the multitude of sins in my life, at the core of each and every one of those sins, I recognize a desire to choose for myself what is right and wrong rather than look to God and submit to His authority. That’s why Steve Fry’s statement: “the root sin of all sins is this desire to act independent of God.” hit home with me.
Regardless of the actual behavior, the choosing to decide for myself – to act independently of God – is rebellion.
Rebellion against God. It’s the heart of the nature of sin.
It’s not my actions alone which constitute sin and separate me from God. My actions are an expression of the state of my heart and my mind. And the state of my heart and mind are a reflection of the state of my relationship with Christ.
I can admit my dependence on God, live under His authority and experience abundant life in Christ.
Or I can act independent of God, choosing to rebel against His authority and separating myself from Him.
“That when he had failed in his duty,
he only confessed his fault,
saying to GOD,
I shall never do otherwise,
if You leave me to myself;
it is You who must hinder my falling,
and mend what is amiss. That after this,
he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.
from The Practice of the Presence of God
by Brother Lawrence
This is one of my all-time FAVORITE quotes. Let me paraphrase and give you an idea of how I process these words.
paraphrase: “I forget, I remember, I repent and I COME BACK.”
(don’t be freaking out about that word “repent.” I’ll get to it in a second.)
“…when he had failed in his duty” means when I forget God.
And I will forget. I do forget. I fail to remember Him. Over and over and over again. When I first read this little book and began practicing the presence of God, my thought was, “I am SO gonna start doing this!” Less than 24 hours into this new way of living in relationship to God and I realized how difficult it was and how often I found myself just flat out forgetting – not only to practice God’s presence – but forgetting God altogether.
I quickly realized that practicing God’s presence wasn’t something I could just decide to do and then do it. I had to PRAY and ask God to “remind me to remember Him.” And I had to pray it multiple times per day. Some days, I had to pray, “Lord, please make me WANT to remember – bless me with a desire for You! I realized:
if my goal was to be aware of God’s presence in the minutiae of my life and
if my plan of action to achieve that goal was to “just do it” that
ON MY OWN, I would never achieve it with any kind of consistency.
My goal had to be prayer –
first, a prayer for a desire to practice God’s presence and
second, the prayer “Lord, please, remind me to remember You. Relentlessly. Any and every way possible.”
The truth of the next part of this quote had hit home:
“I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself”
God had quickly shown me that HE would be the one to “hinder my falling.” I would never be able to remember Him on my own.
And finally, the best part:
“after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”
I’m going to forget God. But when I remember and go back to practicing His presence, I’m not going to waste a minute of the time that could be spent with Him by beating myself up because I forgot Him AGAIN. When I do that, I’m punishing myself for something JESUS ALREADY DIED FOR.
I’ve repented. There’s no room or need for guilt. Guilt is different from repent. Guilt is a noun. Repent is a verb.
guilt: (noun) “a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong”
repent: (verb) “express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.”
I need to remember and relentlessly claim the promise of Romans 8:1:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”
So, to paraphrase this quote from Brother Lawrence? “I forget, I remember, I repent and I COME BACK.”
“One bold message in the Book of Job is that
you can say anything to God.
Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt,
your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment
He can absorb them all.
As often as not,
spiritual giants of the Bible
are shown contending with God.
They prefer to go away limping,
rather than to shut God out.”
from Disappointment With God
by Philip Yancey
When these words first sunk in, they were liberating for me.
I was taught that we should always be reverent toward God because, well…He’s GOD.
We make requests – respectfully.
And we thank Him.
No yelling or complaining or whining or blaming – that would be DISrespectful.
But I’ve realized my holding back in prayer was the equivalent of holding my hands over my face like a little kid playing hide and seek who thinks nobody can see him because his face is covered up.
There’s no authentic relationship when there’s holding back.
Telling God everything – expressing bitterness, revealing and exploring doubt and even angrily listing for Him all the reasons something isn’t fair – was strange at first.
I tell God everything I’m thinking and feeling. He can take it. Because He’s GOD. Besides, He already knows what I’m really thinking anyway. Sometimes even when I don’t. Sometimes I discover what I’m really thinking and feeling when I’m right in the middle of telling Him.
Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment— he can absorb them all.
As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God.
They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.
In this respect, the Bible prefigures a tenet of modern psychology: you can’t really deny your feelings or make them disappear, so you might as well express them. God can deal with every human response save one. He cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore him or treat him as though he does not exist.
That response never once occurred to Job.”
“C.S. Lewis (on reading another author):
“He brought me violently face to face with…”
from Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis
I LOVE it when that happens! It’s why I read dead guys and footnotes when I don’t have to. I love it when a writer makes me think. I love it when my beliefs are challenged, when my complacency is given a swift kick in the pants, when my arrogant assumptions are blindsided by something I never considered before.
Why do I love it when a writer brings me “violently face to face” with a new perspective I hadn’t considered or a truth I hadn’t realized?
Long story short? Complicated and detailed reasoning summarized? I have an extreme aversion to uninformed myopic opinions being spouted as declarations of objective truth.
I like to learn. To think. And I learn a LOT from books. I like to plow into what other people have written. Reading and learning fuel me and fuel the conversations I have, the words I write and the decisions I make.
You don’t have to be a reader to be informed. In the age of Google and Wikipedia, you can find out whether what you believe is hooey in a matter of seconds.
I’m allergic to hooey. The last thing I want to do is spread it around.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing . . . And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 & 14
“If you want a deep relationship, you can’t always be the strong one.”
Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them
or pretend to always be the strong one. And that means being authentic. And vulnerable. And maybe showing some ugly.
“People rarely drift into deep community . . . You can’t do community in a hurry. You can’t listen in a hurry. You can’t mourn in a hurry with those who mourn, or rejoice in a hurry with those who rejoice.”
When I fill my hours with busy, I fill my life with microwaved relationships. Reminds me of a hot pocket. It looks okay on the outside, but if I don’t give it enough time, it’s cold on the inside.
I read, therefore I quote:
“When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for me. Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us.”
Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence
by Sarah Young
“Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.”
by C.S. Lewis
I read, therefore I quote:
“Relationships protect us from myopia, selfishness and stupidity. They provide a mirror by which we can see ourselves, and they can help us to gain perspective when problems and immediate concerns turn us inward and threaten to dominate our lives. Spiritual advisers and Christian friends in particular are well suited to advise us, point out our strengths and weaknesses, and challenge us to think about life from an eternal perspective.”
I don’t believe I’m all that unique. There are those who’ve gone before me. Operating on the belief that there’s no shortage of people who have struggled with the very same things with which I struggle, I see no reason to start from scratch when it comes to problem solving and decision making. I’m a benchmarking kinda gal. I regularly seek out people who’ve done what I need and/or want to do. More importantly, I seek out people who’ve done those things WELL. Then I copy strive to emulate them. I’m
lazy pragmatic that way.
And I can learn just as easily from someone else’s mistakes. My voracious desire to avoid the same mistakes made by others is a foundational source of my relentless pursuit to live intentionally and to choose on purpose rather than in a self-focused, emotional vacuum. I will NOT take lightly my opportunities to positively impact the people God has placed in my life and I will NOT be blind to the possible damage I can do by neglecting to pay attention and to act intentionally when I come face to face with those daily opportunities. I’ve seen the damage that results when someone regularly operates on the assumption that the only decision making criteria needed is their own personal opinion and how they feel at the time. (yes. I know. I have issues. but they are extremely motivating.)
Like Mr. Sittser, I regularly look to books for wisdom:
“I receive guidance from people whom I have never met, never spoken to, and never known personally. Though strangers to me, they have exercised profound influence over my life. I consult them when I have to make a decisions by reading their writings and biographies . . . [they] are the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ who are still available to guide us through life.”
There are those who’ve gone before you. Who are your advisors? Your counselors? Your mentors? If you can’t identify them, ask God to reveal them to you today.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
I’m not much for excuses. If you don’t have one minute and two seconds, skip to the 52 second mark.
I’m teaching my kids to own it. By example.
Two years ago, I blew it. BIG time. I said “yes” to too many things. Three of my responsibilities were non-negotiable:
The other responsibilities in my life at that time could (and should) have been suspended, postponed or just flat out canceled. But no. I said yes one more time.
One of my clients had two new employees drive up from Miami to Orlando on a Sunday afternoon. The plan was for me to meet them in the client’s Orlando office Monday morning for computer training. Then the new hires would drive back to Miami Monday afternoon.
Flat. Out. Forgot. At the exact time I was supposed to be at my client’s office, I was sitting on my couch, in total peaceful silence – after back to back weeks of relentless, overwhelming, chaotic physical and emotional noise. The appointment was in my calendar. On my desktop computer and in my smart phone. The scheduling emails were in my inbox and sent items.
I forgot. Bottom line? My client paid two employees to drive to Orlando. They paid for their gas, hotel and meals. And I didn’t show up. Not a good first impression for a new employee. Not a good client/vendor situation for me.
I should have lost the client. But, by the grace of God and due to my distaste for excuses, I didn’t. I owned it. I didn’t tell the client about my problems, how busy I was, blah, blah, blah.
Instead, I took my well-deserved verbal lashing. My client was angry. I cost them money. They were embarrassed. I listened and I didn’t make one excuse. I didn’t interrupt or attempt to explain anything. Irrelevant. This was MY fault. I let them down. It didn’t matter that I was so busy I couldn’t keep all my balls in the air.
I CHOSE TO JUGGLE THAT MANY BALLS. I chose to take on more responsibilities than I should have. And I’m not necessarily saying I should have have turned down this appointment for client training. I’m saying I had a LOT of things going on at that time – personal and professional -and not all of them needed to be attended to during that overwhelming two week time period. I also could and should have asked for help, and I didn’t. My inability to do what was required was a result of my choices.
So after my client said everything they wanted to say, I owned it. I apologized, took full responsibility, asked for another chance, explained the changes I would make to insure this would never happen again . . .
. . . and comped them ten hours of my time.
They accepted my apology and I did the new hire training via Go To Meeting the next day on a conference call.
My kids know this story. And they know what I’m going to say if they start with excuses.
I hate excuses. I have to CONSTANTLY make the changes I need to make in order to be fruitful instead of busy. I want to do what’s required, to the best of my ability, and if I can’t do that – if I let people down because I can’t do what’s required, I need to reevaluate and make the changes that are required to get me to that place.
“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill
I would love to learn about your past, present or future “own it” experiences, so please don’t be shy about commenting!
Let’s consider this post part five of a series I’ll refer to as: “a job worth doing is worth doing well” –
1. therefore I quote: Mark Atteberry (the requirements of excellence)
2. therefore I quote: MacDonald & Lewis (seasons in life)
3. therefore I quote: Andy Stanley (the reasons behind my priorities)
4. I just don’t listen. (saying no to “good” and make room for “great.”)