Walking our faith: The mud season of my soul (column)
On Sunday evening, Mom called. She asked why I hadn’t written about the Holy Spirit in last week’s column because it was Pentecost Sunday. She was right of course, it was an oversight on my part, and I apologize to all of you. Mom suggested that if I continue writing these weekly columns, I should get myself a religious calendar that would provide me a way to plan my thoughts around the seasons of the Church.
Quite frankly, my thoughts have been on a different seasonal calendar. Mud season.
When I first heard of it, I thought it was a descriptive term. Sharing my home with two 175-pound Newfoundland dogs, mud season means that each day they track in part of the dirt road I live on and render at least one of my five vacuum cleaners helpless.
I’ve since discovered that experienced residents of Summit County understand mud season is a state of mind. People leave town and businesses close. It’s a time to rest, mend bodies weary from ski season, rejuvenate, and ready ourselves for kayaking, SUP and mountain biking.
Which makes sense, although the unexpected quiet around town is a bit disconcerting. Even the vacuum repair guy hasn’t answered my call.
I may be out of synch with my community, but I also realized these disparate views of mud season are a terrific metaphor for how we approach our relationship with God. In faith and mud season, some of us know to rest, while some of us feel we must wrestle.
About a week ago I woke on a Wednesday morning, sat down to do my devotions and felt bereft. Physically, I felt weary. Emotionally, I felt without hope.
I have lived with bouts of depression my entire life, so this was nothing new. As I explained to a doctor recently, on the surface my life is going well and I’m happy. I love where I live, I love my career as a writer, but below the surface there is a lake of sadness and sometimes, despite my happy circumstances, the sadness bubbles to the surface without warning.
For example, two weeks prior I was energized and happy and full of plans for the future. But what happened on that particular morning was a build up of small, minor disappointments which caused me to question my belief that things were moving forward.
To be truthful, I didn’t feel like doing my devotions that morning. It felt as if a curtain had descended between me and God and my prayers weren’t being heard.
Nevertheless, I opened my Bible to the book of Romans, where I’d left off in Chapter 4, and began reading.
“‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was a good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old…Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith, and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:18-22)
The covenant between God and Abraham is one of my favorite illustrations of God’s amazing grace. Consider this exchange between God and Abraham, from Genesis 15:3-5:
“And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children…Then the word of the Lord came to him…He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”
God’s promise to Abraham is an example of the provision I have seen time and again. We present God with a fish and He feeds five thousand. We ask God for a place to rest, and He gives us a mountain view. It seems to please God to exceed our wildest expectations. But we often miss the blessing because we seek it in our timetable, with our idea of how it should look, not Gods.
Sure, mud season is messy, but we know that the beauty of a wildflower-strewn mountain meadow is the reward. That’s why long-time residents of Breckenridge know that mud season is a time to rest and get ready for summer.
And that certainty is why Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. It is the quiet faith that lets us rest in God’s embrace, even when we do not yet see the outcome.
On the other hand, my first experience of mud season and my approach to God, is akin to the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel through the night and refusing to let go until he received a blessing from God.
When faced with the mud season of my soul, instead of enjoying a time of rest, I wrestle with God and demand answers. I argue my case with such dogged determination that I am exhausted and incapable of hearing God’s gentle assurance.
The irony is that my approach isn’t going to change the outcome. Whether as Abraham or Jacob, I am held in God’s embrace. The difference is whether I choose to rest or not. Whether I choose to trust God, or not.
The good news is that no matter which approach I take; God draws me closer to Him. When I think it is me who will not let go until God blesses me…it is God who will not let go of me until I realize that I am already blessed.
This is our comfort when we feel alone, abandoned, covered in mud and shame and sadness. We don’t have to run to God. We don’t have to wrestle with Him to obtain our blessing. Exhale, surrender and understand God holds each of us, always. His love does not have to be summoned, God is the Alpha and Omega and His limitless love has no beginning or end.
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise him,
My Savior and my God.
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