“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. (Mark 4:39)
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
I don’t hold onto faith, Faith holds onto me. At the end of this life, I don’t get to pat myself on the back and say “Good job! Way to stick with it, Colette. It got rough but you hung in there!”. The moment I believed in the person of Jesus, that anchor dropped and wedged itself firmly beneath me. He holds onto me and praise God for that! My fragile and fickle life is a tiny dingy on this vast ocean, fully exposed to anything that may come my way and the only thing that keeps me from drifting off into desolation is the massive steel chain that hangs off the side. When I take the time to contemplate and reflect upon my story of faith thus far, I see this so clearly:
Faith resilience isn’t about my ability to weather the storms, it is about the One who calms the storm.
I say this because I often feel left to my own devices, to weather the storm alone and make whatever needs to happen happen, independent from God. My personality doesn’t help much either. My strategic, problem solving mind hates to be told what to do and wants to discover the solution on her own, yet doubts herself at the same time. The combination of my theological angst, wondering if God is involved in my life, and my fiercely independent spirit makes for a difficult journey of trusting both myself and God. I can’t tell you enough how much I have walked out this faith without God. I became an expert at knowing and doing all the right things but not truly understanding my faith. I wouldn’t say I was an upstanding Christian either, I had significant rebellious seasons that had me repenting my sins on a daily basis. I see this now as still a lack of understanding.
When I say understanding, what I mean is to know something intimately. For many years, I only knew God through church community and the Bible. Yet, when the church community became messy and the Bible confusing, I began to stumble through my faith feeling like a moral failure, totally confused about my purpose. It wasn’t until the year of 2003 when I finally began to know God beyond the walls of a church and the Bible. During a significant season of personal pain, in a tiny chapel on the campus of Multnomah Bible College, I fell into spiritual practices without much awareness of my doing so and a new intimacy with God emerged. Silence, solitude, fasting, prayer, meditation, these all became a saving grace to my narrowing vision of faith. They were an invitation to participate in the dance of the Holy Trinity, to hear and know God like I had never before. It was the acceptance of this invitation and the daily participation thereafter that has grown resiliency and steadfastness in my walk with God.
Spiritual practices became the way I began to steer my tiny dingy on the vast ocean. I was no longer a passive passenger but an active participant within the Holy Godhead. I have a deep love for the Church and God’s Word but when I became so dependant on them, I stopped talking to God myself. I ignored the invitation and instead, lived out my faith within a set of strict parameters; parameters that I was deeply familiar with and felt comfortable confined by them. But when I took my first full day of silence and solitude to commune with God and commit to listening, God began to give me single words to meditate on. Just one word. That’s it. Not a verse or chapter, though still connected to scripture, one word. These single words have propelled me forward in my faith over the years. Words like move, grow and river. One word that has stayed with me and continues to rise up inside my spirit is
I love the word abide in the greek, μένω (menó). This is a big word, with colorful descriptions ranging from staying in place to continuing forward on a journey. It is a word of endurance, sojourning and waiting. We see this word in John 15 when Jesus is teaching his disciples, really for the last time, before he is arrested. Notice how many times he uses this word. I have combined both NIV and ESV to show the diversity of this word.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not abide in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
This is an invitation, clearly stated and repeated for emphasis: Abide in me. Spiritual practices have been a way of abiding in my faith journey. When the storms of life come crashing in, I head to a quiet place to pray and listen. I often visit The Grotto here in Portland and by simply walking onto the manicured grounds, I feel the roots of my faith stretch deeper. To be clear, this has nothing to do with me and my ability to grow those roots. I do not consider myself one of those uber spiritual people. I am simply accepting the invitation to show up and let God do His work.
That is the practice.
All of us have been given this invitation. It isn’t a vague or mysterious envelope, it is the person of Jesus who extends it. We don’t have to clean, fix or cover ourselves up but come as we are. His shed blood on the cross makes it possible for us to accept it. This invitation welcomes us to come and see how high and wide and deep is the love of God, and people who know they are deeply loved are unstoppable. We can face the storms because we know intimately the One who made the sea and he has promised to never leave us. Faith resiliency begins and ends with Him, the Alpha and the Omega but the roots of resiliency are watered and nurtured by our participation,
our daily acceptance to show up and let God do His work.
If you are new to spiritual practices, I invite you to read Spiritual Practices for the Summer Brain I wrote a while back. Start small. I recommend picking one practice to begin. You cannot get these wrong or perfect them, only participate in them.
We are in the season of Ordinary Time according to the church calendar. This season begins with Pentecost and ends with Advent. It is the longest season of the year and is centered around themes of church growth and the spreading of the Gospel. For this blog series, we are writing about faith resiliency and steadfastness through the diverse voices of women bringing their vast and unique backgrounds to this subject. We are only a few weeks in and it has been an absolute blessing to hear these stories of faith! We’ve read personal histories, allegories and exhortations that have encouraged and connected us. Join us each week for fresh encouragement and exhortations!