A Matter Of Trust


I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
– Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, from Frank Herbert’s Dune book series

I had to admit to Heather this morning that I’m afraid.

“Afraid” may be a bit strong, in public I would probably say “nervous” or “worried” or something.

But whatever word you use, it’s driven by fear. I’m afraid.

I’m nervous or worried or fearful or whatever about the things that I wrote about on here two days ago, particularly the looming financial giants of the potential government shutdown and roof repairs.

And Heather, very calmly and honestly, stated to me that it’s going to be OK.

And she’s right.

But here’s the sad thing:

I know it’s going to be OK. I know God’s not going to give me more than I can handle. I know that I’m taken care of.

I know all that.

But …

The part of me that is afraid doesn’t care.

Not because it doesn’t believe those things.

But because it doesn’t care.

Because that part of me knows that God will make sure I’m OK, but He’ll use His standards for what that means.

I want to be OK by my standard.

That part of me  don’t want to be OK by the standard of not having to deal with more than I can handle. It wants to be OK by the standard of not having to deal with anything.

I don’t want to have to use what I have to survive this.

I want to come out of this continuing to be able to go out to eat and buy books irresponsibly. I want to buy an iPad.

I want to be that sort of OK.

That’s selfish, and self-indulgent.

And I’m afraid, because I’m afraid God isn’t going to enable those things.

That’s rather sad.

And that’s been true many times. I had that conversation over a year ago with a good friend. We have trouble trusting God because we judge His trustworthiness not based on whether He does what is best, but whether He does what we want.

Part of me really does trust. Trust that He’ll do in this what is good.

And that part of me really does have peace and rest.

Part of me on the other hand is afraid.

Afraid I don’t get to be sloppy and self-indulgent and undisciplined.

And it’s a good reminder for myself that I’m still very much a work in progress.

Another Sunday — Sojourn IV


This entry is part of my series on my on-going “church journey” that I’ll be documenting as it takes place. You can read about other visits with the “journey” tag.

Jesus and the centurion in Capernaum (Matthew ...

Image via Wikipedia

Another Sunday teaching kids at Sojourn. This week, the lesson was about respect.

It was interesting timing; I came out of last week annoyed and frustrated at the lack of respect that a small number of the kids had shown to me and their peers during the lesson. Frankly, I really didn’t want to have to teach this particular lesson to that particular group; it seemed very much like a case of casting pearls before swine.

As it turned out, those kids weren’t there anyway. It was a much smaller group, and pretty much the opposite of the class from the month before — rather than being too disruptive, they were too quiet; it was hard to get answers to questions initially (though they eventually warmed up a bit).

The lesson was out of Matthew 8. A Roman centurion comes up to Jesus and tells him his servant is sick. Jesus says, “No problem, I’ll go heal him.” And the centurion says, “Dude, you don’t have to do that. I know you can just give the word, and he’ll be better.” The centurion explains that, being an officer over large group of soldiers, he gets the idea of authority. All he has to do is give the order, and what he orders will be done. He gets that Jesus has an even greater version of that sort of authority. “You give the order, Jesus, and it’s done.” Jesus is all impressed, saying that in all of Israel He’s never met anybody with faith like that. He tells the centurion he can go home, that He’s healed the servant like he asked.

It’s a cool story. I like the stories were somebody gets it. The stories where Jesus is happy, the ones where, without it being written, you know He’s grinning. I’ve written before that I think there are a lot more of these than we acknowledge; tone of voice can completely change the meaning of the same words. I think people tend to read Jesus as dour when there was actually a grin on His face or a sparkle in His eyes. I think Jesus had a huge smile when Peter fell in the water and Jesus called him “ye of little faith.” But all of that’s beside the point. There’s no question Jesus was proud of this guy for getting it.

The lesson was about respect, and we talked about that. For the centurion, life was about authority. If he had a problem, he gave the order for it to be resolved. If he couldn’t, he went up the ladder to someone who could. If he lacked the authority, he would go to someone with more authority. He expected respect from those with less authority; he gave it to people with more authority. Jesus had authority to do something he couldn’t, so he respected Him. The kids and I talked about ways they could show respect to God.

But the authority part of it is fascinating, too. The centurion had authority over life or death. At his word, he could cause someone to die. Conversely, he could allow someone to continue to live. He got that as Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” He had no reason not to believe that Jesus could order healing for the servant. We fail with that sometimes. We believe in the theory of an omnipotent God, but we have trouble with the reality of it. We have trouble with the fact that a God who could do everything could do anything.

What can your God do?

Before This River Becomes An Ocean…


Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:22-31

OK, I wish I could lay claim to this insight myself, but, the truth is, a friend of mine talked yesterday about this passage, in a way I’d never thought about before.

What was Jesus saying in the last verse? Every time I’ve heard someone talk about this, and every time I’ve read it before, the disappointment is obvious. Peter could have done it. He knew it was possible to walk on water, and, yet, even knowing that, he faltered. There was no reason he couldn’t have done it if he truly believed, and yet he didn’t. His faith could be so great, and yet was so little. “Oh you of little faith.”

But just a slight difference in intonation of those few words changes the whole passage. Yes, Peter had little faith. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. At that point, how many people in the world had any faith in Christ at all? And how many had the faith to say, “If it’s You, call, and I’ll come”? Maybe Peter’s “little” faith isn’t in comparison to great faith, but in comparison to none at all. After all, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”* Peter’s faith was little, but even a little is incredibly powerful.

So what if the tone wasn’t disappointment, but pride and encouragement? Christ sees Peter moving along his journey from a world without faith to a man of great faith, taking another step along that journey — on the waves! He’s proud, and encourages Peter to continue forward.

“Oh, you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

Strong praise, indeed.

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