Walking Our Faith: When you’re tempted to tell God how the story should end
December 7, 2018
When I think about my own faith, I picture it as one of those big fluffy snowflakes that seem to fall in slow motion, somehow heavier than the air yet caught in the air perhaps like a parachute so beautiful yet as soon as it encounters something of substance, such as my outstretched hand, after a fleeting moment of contact it disintegrates and melts.
Faith is one of those words that has many meanings. We can say of a complete stranger, a political or relgious leader for instance, "I have faith in him or her." But what does that really mean: that something tells us that person is trustworthy? Or is it something as elemental as we believe they share our values and therefore we trust them?
If hope is the bright optimism that pulls us forward and gets us out of bed each morning and if faith is the evidence that things generally turn out for the best and gives us a sense of bedrock trust that allows us to not live looking backwards but to see our past as a solid foundation, then do we live in a constant state of tension bolstered by the past, drawn by the future, held up by faith as we hold on to hope?
I thought about this tension between the past and the future as I read the first chapter of Luke this week. First, we encounter Zachariah and Elizabeth, a middle-aged couple who love God but carry the sorrow of being childless. When Zachariah is met by the angel Gabriel and told that his wife Elizabeth will bear a child, Zachariah's initial disbelief is met with a swift response. His lack of faith literally leaves him speechless until his promised child is born.
On the other hand, when Mary encounters the angel Gabriel carrying a similar and even more astonishing message, that she will carry the son of God though she is a virgin, she replies, let it be done unto me according to God's will.
Who are we most like in our journey of faith? Are we like Zachariah — amazed, honored, happy — yet still allowing our disbelief in such great miracles to leave us speechless?
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Or can we strive each day to be more like Mary who surrendered her fear and traded it for trust in God's greater plan in the face of an even more impossible miracle? The faith of Mary requires such enormous trust, enormous faith in God's plan for our lives.
When I was a young girl, I spent the long trips to and from swim practice staring out the window of the car imagining stories of how I would like things to be in the future. I would be an Olympic swimmer, I would marry my high school sweetheart. I would live in a house with a white picket fence and have six children running in the yard. None of those dreams came true.
Did these daydreams stop as I grew older? Of course not. I spend as much time imagining my "perfect" future now as I did then. I imagine the house where I will live in the woods south of Breckenridge. I imagine the Newfoundland dogs running through the yard, (dogs now replacing children as I am soon to be 57) and I imagine the books I will write, all bestsellers, of course.
And God laughs. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21)
There is nothing wrong with my daydreams, or yours. That is why God gave us wonderfully creative imaginations. There is nothing wrong with making plans, that's how we move forward with our dreams.
But when we step onto the holy ground of faith, we must endeavor to be like Mary. To not only trust God's plan is better than ours, but to follow with trusting hearts, not questioning God like Zachariah, but embracing the journey with joy, as Mary exclaimed: "My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name." (Luke 1:46-49)
This beautiful opening of what we call the Magnificat, or Mary's Song, provides important examples for us to follow when God's way diverges so greatly from our own dreams. Her words not only express her trust in God's greater plan for her life, she praises God's holy greatness. She expresses not only her trust but her love for God. And she shares her gratitude for God's actions.
I want to follow Mary's example. Yes, my mind will always be filled with dreams. And yes, I can tell you that few of them have turned out the way I imagined. But I can also tell you that God's path for my life has brought me to a place of greater happiness than I ever thought possible. Still need a house of my own? Yes. Want more Newfies? Of course! Write more books? For the next 50 years, God willing.
But while those dreams remain ahead of me, my soul "magnifies the Lord" with a sense of contentment I've never had before. Writing this column, writing about faith, is the greatest joy in my life. And I am grateful to you for reading.
For our second week of Advent, let's read the second chapter of Luke. For each week of Advent, we are focusing on one word: hope, faith, joy, peace. Next week is joy and the second chapter of Luke is full of joy as a chorus of angels announce the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Luke 2 is 51 verses in length. So, let's thoughtfully read 10 verses each day. See you next week!
Suzanne's latest book, "The Best Christmas," is available at the Next Page Books and Nosh on Main Street in Frisco. Suzanne lives in Breckenridge and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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