Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Love Story week 4: faith & bravery, small & valuable

Sometimes I wonder about my life.  I lead a small life—well, valuable—but small.  
And sometimes I wonder:  Do I do it because I like it? Or because I haven't been brave?
- "Kathleen Kelly," You've Got Mail

I think one of the most interesting questions you can ask someone is, "What scene in a movie best depicts you?"  (Dennis' favorite scene is from his favorite movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  He loves the moment when Butch rides away from the Hole in the Wall gang and says, "I got 20/20 vision, and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals.")  

Nora Ephron nailed me with these lines in You've Got Mail.  I wonder about my life.  A lot.  I wonder what makes it valuable.  When I first heard these lines, I thought, "Can a life be valuable and small?" For a long time I thought the only things that made my life valuable were things that got noticed.  Or things that I did exceptionally well.  A lot of these things required me to be brave—or rather, to pretend to be brave.  I'm not very brave.

I said that to Dennis once, and it surprised him.  "But you have so much faith!" he said.  

Is it possible to have faith and not be brave?  What's the difference in faith vs bravery?

"I just want to put these questions out into the void," Kathleen Kelly writes. "Good night, dear Void."

Dear Void: 
I'm putting these questions out there again because this week, I've been learning to tell the story of God's promise to Abraham.

The Lord said to Abraham, "Leave the place where you are 

and go to a place I will show you."

-Genesis 12:1

Scott Harris, our Missions Pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church, has said that when it comes to following God, it's a two part process:  leaving and going.  And often, leaving is the harder part.  I saw this play out first hand in Matt's life.  It was very exciting to go toward the adventure of an incredibly valuable life doing incredibly valuable work in South Africa.  And though leaping into the unknown required faith—and then rigorous training—it was all on a trajectory toward something.  

Then came the very real work of dismantling the life here, in this place.  Which life, he discovered, was really valuable to him.  Leaving behind the very real people you love and keep company with.  Reducing all your possessions to two crates.  Giving away or selling all the props for the life you know and love.  One of the most heartbreaking moments came when Matt realized:  he had to give away his dog.

You cannot stay where you are and go with God.

- Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God: Knowing & Doing the Will of God

Abraham is applauded for his faith.  And I think he is commended more for his leaving than his going.  Hebrews 11:8 tells us "Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going."  

Faith is the certainty or conviction of things not seen.  (Hebrews 11:1)  Abraham didn't have faith in a vision of the place he was going, or the new life he would live there.  He'd never seen it.  He had faith in the God who promised it to him.  I think he went out, and people thought he was crazy. I think he went out and felt very lonely.  I think his wife Sarah went with him, streaming a running commentary the whole way:  "Who is this God?  Show me a statue of him.  What does he look like?  You're the only one who's ever heard him.  What's the name of the place where we're going?"  I suspect that because that's what I'd do to Dennis.  That's pretty much what I do to God, and quite regularly.  Every time He asks me to leave the well-known comfortable place I am and go to What's Next.  Every time I have to give up my props.  

Brave: (adj ready to face and endure danger or pain.  

I know that I sometimes engineer my life to be small in order to avoid danger or pain.  In order to remain comfortable.  So that things won't get out of my control.

Henry Blackaby says that when we do this—when we have a problem leaving & going with God—it reveals that we have "a love problem."  We don't know God;  we don't trust that He is loving.  So we need to back up, take some time and get to know the God who is the Giver of good gifts, who does not change like a shifting shadow (James 1:17), who is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)  Abraham got to know God so well that though he could not see how his new life would actually happen, he considered God to be the One who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  (Romans 4:17).

We follow a Person, not a path.

I know that it is possible to be both brave and afraid.  

I know you can be full of faith and full of fear, all at the same time.

I think Abraham was.  When he left the place he knew and went out, not knowing.  When it got very real and dangerous and uncomfortable on the way.  When many years went by, once he got there, until he saw the life he'd been promised.  He never saw all his descendants, as numerous as the stars.  We are those descendants, we who have faith and go out.

Abraham didn't do anything "big".  He tended flocks and farmed.  He fought off enemies and defended his family.  Sometimes he chickened out, and sometimes he stood up for them. He had a son.   In our spotlight-obsessed break-all-records multi/mega/look-what-I-did land, we might consider that a small life.  What made Abraham's life valuable?  It was what God did.

I will give you.... I will show you....  

I will bless you...  I will make you... 

and I will bless all the peoples of the world through you.

- Genesis 12:2-3

Here's the story of God's promise and Abraham's faith.

Who will you tell this story to?

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