Thursday, April 5, 2012

Order Matters

Faith. Hope. Love.

The greatest of these is love. So why isn't it first?

Because order matters.

On one of my doors (there are three in my bedroom, and would you believe not one of them is a closet?), I have three decorative cards. They are the covers to store-bought photo albums my mother has put photos of her grandchildren in; I have redesigned covers for her, but these were so beautiful, I couldn't just toss them. They inspire me. On a background of pink clouds, the simple word "journey." On waves of blue water, "believe." And on kind of a pink/peach/orange flowery design, "hope."

I wasn't looking for any order; I hung them as I got them. Slowly, over the course of more than a year. Because really, who prints many photos any more? (Ok, my mom does, but that's a story for another day.)

The other day, though, I was looking at this. It's just to the left of my desk. And I was thinking about what it means. I read the words over and over again, left to right like reading a book. Left to right. Left to right. Journey. Believe. Hope.

Journey. Believe. Hope.

That's the way many of us live, isn't it? We journey first, stepping out and going full-bore toward whatever we're after in whatever way we think we'll get there. Then we believe we must be onto something. And lastly, we hope that when we get there, it will be all we dreamed of. Or if we're really religious...we hope God will bless us when we arrive.

That's how I lived for a long time. I know I'm not alone. You see - we're told that we need to "make something" of ourselves. We need to throw all our energies behind getting there. Then, if we believe in ourselves, we can make it happen. And with any hope, once we get there, it will matter. That's how we're told that life works. That's how we're told we succeed. That's how we're told we are something.

It's bunk.

I've been looking at these cards, and it's clear: God calls us to live the opposite. He calls us to put our hope in Him. First. All hope that He is who He says He is, that He keeps His promise, that He created us with a specific purpose in mind and the matter of love at heart. Then, we believe. Second. We believe the words of Jeremiah 29, that He has a plan for us, and the words of Romans, that He's working it out. We believe that He loves us, that He's working in us, and that He's working through us. Finally, we journey. Last. We step out. We take a risk. We go.

It has to be that way. If it's not, the peace of God gets all messed up, and it's hard to know what's right any more. What's up and why we're down. But in the right order, we can live deliberately and disciplined. We can take a comfortable pace. We hold the answers that those who journey first are still looking for; and Truth guides our journey. Because our hope sets the foundation. Our faith (what we believe) builds our confidence. And our journey takes us into purpose.

It's beautiful that way. He's cool like that.

So back to this: Faith. Hope. And Love. With the greatest of these being love. Then why isn't it first? Because order matters.

Because our faith is the foundation for knowing our place in the cosmic scheme of things. It keeps us from thinking too much of ourselves. Our hope builds our confidence, because we sense there is something out there we are doing. Something we are a part of. Something we are contributing to. We see it in us, through Him and through eyes of faith, and we hope we're touching it in some meaningful way to bring honor to Him. And then love. Then love...because we have the answers that others might try to manipulate through hollow love. Because we don't have the questions lingering and because we have long lost sight of ourselves in the sense of any pride or ego. We are free to love. Because our hope and our faith sets the stage for honest love. Agape love. God's love.

It's beautiful that way.

Is something in your life out of order? Would switching things around free you to live more confidently, more faithfully, and more simply in God's presence? If so, play with it. Move some things around. See if it doesn't stir you to something greater.

And no, I haven't moved my cards. I just read them backward now. I start with what's right...and move on to what's left. It seems to work just fine that way.

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