I wish I could write that I have trusted God, raised my hands to praise him with a smile, and gracefully followed where he has been leading me. Rather, it has been messy.
Over the past few weeks, God called me to pack up my bags and take a last-minute weekend mission trip to help with clean-up from Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina, get way out of my comfort zone and speak to my youth group, make some big decisions about college, and take many significantly small steps of faith.
I have wrestled with God. I have questioned how I can take a weekend out of my color-coded planner to serve when God says go. My priorities have fallen completely out of balance and I’ve been distracted by busyness, work schedules, and exams. I have been frustrated and fearful of the list of unknowns in my future. I have felt lonely in the isolation of chaos. I have not loved the people who love me in the way they deserved to be loved. Not to mention, I haven’t been a good blogger and I have barely allowed my fingers to type anything but essays and discussion boards.
But I’ve realized that faith is taking a deep breath, going when God says go, and trusting his promises even when I don’t understand. Faith is running towards God when problems and fear are overwhelming, not distracting myself with a busy schedule and a fake smile. Faith is looking at my shortcomings with lenses of grace and living in the promise of new mercy each morning.
We are going to fall short. The true measure of faith is how we get up. Do we reach up to our father’s open arms, praying “Abba, Daddy,” trusting that he is there to hold us and tenderly put us back on our feet? Or do we wrestle with ourselves, trusting our own strength as a substitute for the grace that only God can give?
My life may be a series of broken striving and misplaced trust, but God loves me unconditionally with mercy-scarred hands. I choose to keep going, to believe God when he says I’m forgiven, and keep moving when he calls me deeper.
Through each of these humbling lessons, one word has remained constant in my soul-faith. I’m always awed by God’s creativity in teaching us and his sense of humor. God sees my over-eager planning, my fears, and the pieces of my life that I’m clinging to. He lovingly reaches out his palms and whispers for surrender. He gently asks for the broken pieces of my heart, never forcing me, but opening my clenched hands one finger at a time with his call of grace.
It is difficult and painful to let go. Most of the time surrender happens with gritted teeth and doubt and lies shouting in my soul. God’s call to walk deeper is masked by the fear of falling beneath the waves. It requires raw faith to follow.
The ironic part is a few weeks ago, I stood nervously on a stage in front of my youth group speaking these same words. I shared my experience from my mission trip to South Carolina, narrating how I found myself on top of a roof nailing down tarps and sweeping broken pine branches, unsteady from fear of heights. I spoke uncomfortably about an uncomfortable experience, challenging my youth group to become uncomfortable for the sake of Christ. God calls us beyond complacency. I shared these bold words: If you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing; don’t settle for satisfied. The words didn’t come from my lips. The words came from the words God had been ingraining deep inside of my heart.
The story didn’t end there, the journey wasn’t complete. It still isn’t over. I don’t speak those words because I have it figured out. God is still teaching me and re-shaping my heart. He is still prying my own plans, control, and fears from my tight grip. I am still learning to hit my knees, trust in his faithfulness, and follow his lead. Sometimes I still fall beneath the waves. But God uses us in the midst.
God is faithful when my faith is small. I hear God’s heartbreaking voice:“’You have so little faith… Why did you doubt me?”. But his grace is as wide as the sea below my feet and his forgiveness is as powerful as the waves that I sink beneath. After all, Jesus himself promised to move mountains with faith as small as a mustard seed.
Faith isn’t just a word doodled on a notebook page and printed on a coffee mug. Faith is messy, broken, and tough. Faith fights and bleeds. Faith follows with tears and a breaking heart. But in the end, faith isn’t winning. Faith is surrender. Faith is leaning on the One who is always faithful.