It's a verse familiar to most of us, these words Jesus says to His disciples about the power of faith. And I think most of us have spent at least some reasonable time trying to take these words to heart. Trying...to move mountains.
I've written about this before, about how for all the men and women out there trying to move mountains, I've never heard a single news report of a mountain being suddenly thrown into the sea. I've never heard of a mountain crumbling in the blink of an eye. I've never heard of a mountain moving so much as an entire foot in an instant. Such an act would cause seismic waves, and I've never heard reports of those seismic waves, either. It seems none of us are actually moving any mountains. So what does that say about our faith?
That's the question I wrestled with before, but this time, I want to take a bit of a different turn 'round the mountain question. Because I've been thinking about this whole idea a little bit, about how this has come to be such a central aspect of this thing that we call faith.
For many of us, faith has become the moving of mountains.
It's our first instinct when life throws some circumstance, some new situation our way. We want to know how faith responds to make mole hills out of mountains, to make these mountains move. A cancer diagnosis, a broken relationship, a lost job, a missed opportunity, a disaster, a loss of hope, an overwhelming burden - these are common experiences of our human existence. And as people of faith, our first inclination is to look these obstacles square in the eye...and demand them to move.
Ain't nobody got time for this.
Ain't nobody got time for CT scans and MRIs and blood draws and biopsies. For chemotherapy and doctor's appointments and long nights next to the toilet. Ain't nobody got time for being angry with one another, for fighting over silly little things. Ain't nobody got time for unemployment, for job searching, for soul searching. Ain't nobody got time for regrets, for mistakes, for starting over. Ain't nobody got time for mountains.
In fact, I would say that most of us come right up to the foot of our mountains , then bow our heads in prayer and bury them in the sand, all in the hopes that when we dare look up again, the mountain won't be there any more. And for most of us, this just isn't working. So the question we have to ask ourselves is: why?
I believe there are two answers to this question, and both deserve a bit of discussion. First, the kind of faith that moves mountains doesn't bow its head; it raises it. You have to dare to look at your mountains.
And second, I don't think all mountains are meant to be moved. Yes, I know Jesus said, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed.... But a mountain is never just a mountain. They're not all the same. You have to figure out what kind of mountain you're facing if you can ever hope to know what to do with it. And yes, faith absolutely can move mountains. But not all mountains are meant to be moved. Sometimes, the mountain requires something completely different from faith.
We'll look at some of that this week.