Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Faltering Faith

I said yesterday that I don't like faith as a force against fear, and that probably took a lot of you by surprise. Don't get me wrong - it's a beautiful sentiment. I feel it in my heart when I sing along with Sidewalk Prophets, "I'm giving You fear and You give faith." And absolutely, yes. Faith can be a fantastic answer to a spiritual fear. (Can be. Not necessarily always is.)

But our problem is that we've overspiritualized fear, and I don't like where that takes us.

Think about the things you're afraid of. Who's responsible for them? Think about what you're actually afraid of. Who's responsible for you?

Let's go back to what I said yesterday about bridges. A common fear. Not the most common, but common enough. Now suppose that before I drive over any bridge, I entrust myself to God and believe, in faith, that God is going to get me across that bridge safely. I have a measure of peace now as I drive. But let's say it doesn't work out that way. Let's say the bridge collapses. Who am I mad at?

I'm mad at God! Gosh darnit, I prayed and trusted God to lead me over this bridge, and here I am in the water waiting to be fished out like some sucker fish and who knows whether I live or die but I'm certainly not praying any more! I can't trust this God. I don't trust this God.

But God didn't build that bridge. Man did. God didn't inspect that bridge. Man did. Man is the one who let me down, by accident or by fault, and here I am wasting my time being mad at God. Now, I'm holding man against Him.

Or imagine I am afraid of, and not simply averse to, snakes. Imagine I pray before I go hiking with my women's retreat sisters that we won't run into any snakes and that we will all be safe from the creepy crawlies. And then imagine that we venture out on the trail and run into a slitherer. God just ruined my afternoon hike! So much for trusting Him! But He didn't lead me into that woods; I chose to go. He didn't put the snake there; that's it's habitat. Because He created nature to be nature, I blame Him for nature and now, I can't trust Him. I don't trust Him.

Do you see how when we use faith as an antidote to fear, we set ourselves up for spiritual disappointment?

The only way this works is if God is not who He is and not who we actually want Him to be. When we use faith to respond to fear, what we're asking is for God to micromanage the world, our world, and take control of everything in order to protect us. We lose a sense of ourselves and loosen our responsibility on our own life, and we lose a sense of community because all of a sudden, everyone around us is nothing more than a pawn God is using to take care of us or to not take care of us. That's a whole lot of not what God is. We praise Him in the good times that He gives us the grace to choose love and the free will to discover Him...and in times of fear, we wish He hadn't given us those things because when things go awry, suddenly, He's not good enough any more.

It's a vicious place to be and a wicked place to put God.

Which is why I go back to what I said yesterday and as a beginning to this post. Faith can be an excellent resource against spiritual fear, but our primary poison against the pervasiveness of fear cannot be faith. It must be awe.

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