“I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6.) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. . . . I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)
Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.
Every confession in the Presbyterian Book of Confession underscores the fact that we are subject only to God. The reformation and its teachings were born out of lived experiences of persecution and discrimination. Watching the church become tyrannical in its leadership the reformers like Calvin and Luther realized that the Pope was no better than Cesar. Luther listed many of the abuses in the church 95 thesis nailed to the church door in Wittenberg.
To that end, throughout the protestant tradition we are always skeptical of leadership that tries to assert divine qualities or preach a message contrary to the Gospel in its whole. Simply stated it is our belief that no one can attain access to God except through the love and Grace of Christ. Additionally, the unwritten assertion of this “Evangelical Truth” is that there is no human mediator between any human and Christ.
The argument many make is that the church should not be political, but the church by its very nature is that our goals and purpose is to follow Christ and when we see actions that are not we are called to act Christlike and make people aware. Otherwise we risk becoming pawns of powers that do not truly uphold the values that we hold dear.
It is interesting when we look at the Barmen declaration, a document written in 1934 only 1 year after the Reich took over. Think about this, at the time, very little was known about the extent of what the Nazi Party would become, it was 5 years before the start of World War II. However, what they had seen in that first year of this new Reich government was that the government had co-opted the Christian message combining Christianity with nationalism and militarism. From an Evangelical standpoint this was problematic because it assumed that the state was equal to God and that the leader of the state would be able to assume a Godlike status. Of course, history tells us that, in fact, this did happen as Hitler was seen by many as a God.
What is scary right now is that the Modern Evangelicals have taken a stance that is contrary to Biblical teachings placing an emphasis on moral issues that are either not found in the Bible or require an eisegetical reading of certain passages in order to prove a singular point over actual call of the Bible. In fact, while we label them as “conservative” this form of reading the Bible is one of the most liberal ways to interpret the Bible because it relies on using the Bible to proof text a narrative, not follow what the message actually says. While the actions may serve to promote a “social conservative platform” there is no way you cannot see how that narrow interpretation is actually quite liberal.
What is really scary is that this was the exact way that Hitler co-opted so many to make the German Christian Cult. And, to record, the same thing that Osama bin Laden did with the Quran. But those are only two examples, history is packed with one example after another of leaders promising new ways to salvation through narrow readings, strict morals and an insatiable thirst for power.
There is a reason why early in every confession, we claim Jesus Christ is the head of the church. With no equivocation, we believe in Jesus Christ and that it is through Christ that we attain salvation. No Government, no celebrity, no guru, no captain of industry can take the place of God. As a church we are called to pay attention and speak out when we see people creating a cult around leaders and ideologies that do not support the basic truths we know.
Life was good, I had just turned 27, I finally moved into my first new home, and I was living in the bliss of a good honeymoon phase in my first called congregation, I could not imagine what things were to come. But then it happened, 9/11 changed everything. I was heading to a lectionary group as it was happening. Together we listened to the events unfurl and we knew that at that very moment everything changed, we just did not know how.
As we do in any crisis our government beefed up security, or at least the appearance of security, as armed soldiers stationed themselves in public places. That was understandable in the moment and as we would expect, it lessened in time and many only see the lingering effects as long lines at airports. But it changed a lot more. Not only did it spark a renewed a desire for isolationism among some, 9/11 brought fear, real fear, back to the mainstream in politics and community. This fear manifested in many forms and has become pervasive in many different parts of our everyday lives. But, what may be worse than fear is the longing by some to “get back” to a purer “Christian” nation. This is scary since the version of Christianity that they espouse is a form that really is neither supported Biblically nor history.
Now, 17 years after 9/11, we are in a place where we have a government that does not support anything that resembles Christian values yet is using Christianity to justify their devious actions. So, in trying to find some theological context and a vocabulary to address what I am seeing, I spent some time rereading the confessions and spending a good amount of time with one of the smallest and least known confessions in the reformed movement, “the Barmen declaration.” The Barmen declaration was a statement written in 1934 by a new denomination created in the resistance of the Reich. Like the evangelical movement today the Christians affiliated with the Reich took liberties with the Christian message to create a movement that supported the government and that assured a certain social order.
For the confessing movement, the very foundation of the church was Jesus Christ and the church was subordinate to Him. Moreover, the purpose of the church was to preach the Gospel and the message of the Free Grace of God. Within the declaration, there are 6 “evangelical truths” they make holding the Reich Christians to task. These are found towards the end of the declaration (8.10 in the PCUSA Book of Confession).
Since this election season is going to be a show and we already know how faith is being thrown around, I am going to spend the next six weeks writing about each of these points. My hope in doing so is that you can follow along and challenge yourself to see how faith is being used and abused in our country and how we need to become more vocal or we will find ourselves victims of a system that can easily justify truly anti-Christian actions.
But before we start a note about the term “evangelical”, this term has changed in meaning from the time the Barman Declaration was written. At that time Evangelical was both a denomination, a form of the Lutheran tradition and a term used to describe the Protestant “biblically based” traditions. In that respect, most mainline churches are evangelical. However, in America and other places the term “evangelical” became a politically correct term for fundamentalists, who, through social pressure, changed their terminology, but not their actual beliefs. To this end, when referring to modern Evangelicals I will use the phrasing Modern Evangelical.
I hope you enjoy!
In preparing for the sermon this week I am reminded of a story of a young man who was fascinated with the world. This man was always interested and moved close enough to his job so that he could walk there and enjoy the world he lived in. Being inquisitive and aware he looked at everything he passed by and tried to look at everything as if it were new every day. Then one day on his walk he found a pebble on the sidewalk that was unlike any pebble he had ever seen before. It has blues and reds and even some yellow, so he put it in his work bag and kept walking.
Inspired by that one pebble he kept his eye out for more unique treasures and almost every day he added another. While he loved these treasures that he kept in his bag, it was like most things that went into his bag, they went in, but never came out.
One day when he was especially tired, and the walk was just arduous. He was starting to curse his decision to move so close to work that the only option was to walk. He stopped looking around and found no pleasure in his walk any more. Then there was that bag, heavy and overstuffed with papers and electronics, he had actually forgotten about his little treasures that now filled the bottom of his bag. When he got to his office, he emptied the bag and there was a pile of dirty pebbles and other treasures. Individually they were neat, but as a group they were just a bunch of dirty pebbles.
He could not help but laugh at this “heavy bag” that he had made heavier because he could not let go of something that might have been special but not really worth the extra burden. Then he thought about why he was so tired and realized that he had been carrying too many burdens in his life, things that hung around, which he had never dealt with most of which, he could just let go. And he did just that. As he walked home that day he took his pebbles and carefully set each down, a burden he was letting go of. By the time he got home his bag was empty of everything but his computer. He smiled and realized that he had more energy than he had in months.
He also began to enjoy his walks to and from work again. Yes, he would stop and appreciate what he saw, but every time he picked up a pebble he would take a moment and appreciate it, then he always would, set it back down and say a little prayer.
Getting rid of your burdens is not about forgetting or hiding them. What the man realized was that he had to name them and let them go. Jesus did the same. In Luke 4:14-37, the writer is directly addressing burdens as Jesus makes his way home to a reception that is all but welcoming. Jesus knew he had to go, so as to not be burdened by not fulfilling his call, but also to let them know how important it was to let go and follow God.
Of course, their response was to not only throw him out of town but also take him to his death at that very moment. He got away and made his way to Capernaum to share the message. It was a different kind of message then they had heard before. It was kind and uplifting. But when a possessed man began to badger Christ, Christ saw the burden inside the man which they understood to be a demon, and He cast the demon out.
There is so much that burdens people and regardless of where you are in life, you have a burden. For some it is medical, others financial, and others social. Many are burdened with frustration over the state of the world and others still burdened by the questions of their faith. The thing about burdens is they weigh us down. They keep us from living the best we can and often get in the way of relationship.
This week I lost my lock and my swimsuit at the YMCA. Technically, I did not lose them. I left them behind and they were probably thrown out. In a combination of being hurried and tired from exercising, I was not being mindful. Both were at the end of their useful lives but, it still was frustrating. In this case I was being a fool. Form a secular standpoint a fool is “a silly or stupid person” or “a person who lacks judgment or sense.”However, when we look at how the term fool is used Biblically:
A fool is one who, either by ignorance or by deliberate and calculated pre-determination, follows a lifestyle or commits specific acts that are detrimental for the person or society.”
I think this distinction is important to understand especially in the light of what we are facing in our society today. By relegating the understanding of the fool to perceived or real intelligence levels or competence, we miss the Biblical relationship between the fool and the wise. In fact, the Bible, in many places, shows that the fool has more intelligence than the wise, but the wise ones are living intentionally and also with an understanding of the past, present and future.
It is how I was being foolish last week, thinking through the motions of getting ready, but not thinking about what I was doing, letting the urgency keep me from being mindful and aware of what I really needed to do. It may be a silly example, but it is one that highlights how often we all act foolish in little ways and hopefully helps us see how we maybe foolish in bigger ways as well.
A mentor of mine once told me the difference between the foolish and the wise was simple, “the fool lives in the moment and the wise understand their place in the moment.” This is where being mindful is so important to the growth of becoming wise.
In California we are very aware of mindfulness, we see ads and hear about it in many places. Mindfulness and its practice became part of the culture when “spiritualists” were big in the 60’s and 70’s. As these new traditions were forming, often picking up on themes and practices found in various religious traditions, the leaders often recognized that in both the eastern and western religious traditions, mindfulness was core practice especially in the more mystical traditions.
While different traditions may refer to it in different ways the practice of being mindful is essential for connecting with a spiritual life. Conversely, lack of mindfulness is often problematic to one’s spiritual nature because it removes us from having the intention in our lives and forces us to react to the world. Just like the fool, the one who is not being mindful, often misses out on life because they are unable to see the fullness of what the world offers.
In the Christian tradition, however we recognize that this lack of intention is more insidious than just losing a lock and being inconvenienced. It's what is broken on the inside that makes it difficult to lead our lives, which also, often allows evil to emerge.
One of the great questions of the 20thcentury has been: “how could the most advanced and educated country in the world succumb to the Nazi movement.” So many books written, dissertations, movies, etc. made to try and explain this question though, none really fully answer. The closest is to say that as a society, the Germans were overwhelmed with the situations they were in and the evil of the Nazi party was able to slowly encroach, because instead of thinking, people were willing to accept. Or one could say, instead of being mindful, the were living in the moment. That is how things really become scary.
As Christians we are called to interact wisely with the world. But to do that, we need to think and be mindful of our place within the world and not just go through the motions. If it is easy to lose a lock because of not being aware, we can easily lose our faith and even ourselves if we are not being mindful and wise.
So, by now you may have heard that I took on another position in the community as a commissioner on the Human Relations (Rights) Commission for the County of Santa Clara, and you may be asking yourself, why would he do this? Well, it goes to my deep understanding of how we follow what God is calling us to do.
To be honest, up until a few weeks ago I knew nothing about the Human Relations Commission (HRC), nor did I really have a desire to get involved in politics. But, being called to something is a funny thing. The call is different for everyone. Sometimes it is big and at other times it is small. But when you are called to something it beckons you. Usually it is not something you really WANT to do, rather it is a sense that it is something that would make you less if you did not do.
This is why in our tradition for clergy, we place a big emphasis on the call coming from outside, often those calls confirm the stirrings that are already in your heart, but just as often they are calls that you could not see in yourself, but others bring them to your attention and you just cannot shirk them away. For us, a call is like our understanding of sacraments, as an outward sign of what God is already doing in your heart.
One of the first things I would always tell new interns or candidates for ministry when I was active with that group was that “Ordination is a consequence NOT a goal.” The purpose of the statement was to make it known to the individual that it was not about them getting ordained, what I was really concerned with, was the call and the way in which they were serving God. It proved to be a good model as the interns that followed that lesson were able to listen to the call and become exceptional in their fields. And the ones that didn’t, well didn’t.
When I take on new things I often ask why I am called to do this and I put a lot of weight on what others think. It was interesting when I was called here because on paper I would not have taken the position, but in studying the church and community I felt as if I needed to be here. That is the reality of calls they ultimately do not belong to the individual, they belong to God. I would also go as far as saying that the call is vital only if it is connected in a way where God is working both inside and outside of us.
For this calling to the HRC, when I was approached my initial reaction was to say no. Heck, I was on vacation, still recovering from the parade and I had never heard of this group before. Moreover, this was yet another civic thing, not parochial. Luckily, I was on vacation and not really going to make any decisions but when I got home I began to ask if this would be a role where I could live out my calling. As I read the description of the commission I was amazed at how closely it aligned with both my personal statement and my statement of faith. While it is not a Christian endeavor, it is a very real calling to help create policies of welcome and tolerance to this community at large and that is ultimately one of our callings as Christians - to create a world that celebrates all of God’s children in the fullness of who they are!
I am sure you will hear more about my time on this commission and maybe even get involved in helping our community be a place of welcome and acceptance, just as we try to do within our congregation.
Walking on the Boardwalk last week we stopped for a second and watched as a caricature artist was doing a very interesting portrait. A good caricature artist accentuates features both pleasant and unpleasant to make a comical work of art. A good artist also, might ask for a sport or activity someone likes, but by design there is a lot about a person that is left out of a caricature drawing. But that is the point! We pay someone to get a good laugh or maybe to get an insight into how others see us. It is easy to compartmentalize the caricature artist and say that is something for the fair! But the reality is that often we are our own caricature artists, especially when it comes to God.
Take the “atheists” as a group. Yes, I know a dangerous thing and a caricature of that group. When listening to them talk about God, often what you hear is a narrow opinion, often highlighting the negative aspects, but forgetting or reasoning away the positives, often leading to the logical assertion that there is no God.
At the same time you could take the religious zealots, again a dangerous thing to take as a group. However, often when you find a meeting between the zealots and the atheists you will see that the zealots have just as much of a caricature of God, having a singular always-positive understanding and image.
As you might see, like with the caricature of a person, not seeing the completeness of God can and does create real problems. Almost always when you see cults develop they do so using a caricaturized version of God. Some people really love this because it often the God they think they need.
In our tradition one of the first things that happens in seminaries is a challenge to everything the incoming student knows or think they know about God. For many first-year students in seminary this is a painful experience, especially those who thought they picked a school that would only affirm what they already knew! But the importance of this cannot be missed, especially as a pastor, because it could be easy to have a singular caricaturized version of God. While that is great for growing congregations, it really does not do much for developing or growing disciples.
Step back for a second and think about that. When you hear people say they believe in a cause, they are often spouting a political agenda or myopic view. I am not saying this is good or bad; in fact, many times it can be very good! Take the Black Lives Matter movement. At the beginning it brought awareness to an issue and helped many in our community who don’t understand the plight of many African Americans to understand and have a way to help. BUT we know that the problems are not just about the respect and dignity of Black Lives, but a need for a deeper, more systematic correction to the relationship between the police and the whole community. The problem is that it is hard to introduce the bigger issues when the cause is so myopically focused.
This is true when we think about God. If our view of God is merely the God we want, or don’t want, we are not really having a full image of God. The God who we are imagining is only the God we want to see. This means that many times people come to our churches with the same mindset, choosing churches that will affirm their beliefs and not challenge their understanding of God. Our challenge is to help them to see that God is much bigger than the caricature they have, and when we see God more fully, then we can have a real relationship with Him and understand a deeper, fuller faith.
This coming Sunday we are going to re-dedicate the windows in the sanctuary. This is going to be a special service as we welcome back families and members that have been away. For some who have been away they will join in as if they never left. For most of the people that have left, coming back is going to be a surreal experience with facilities looking familiar clearly a lot of changes too, which for those who have been around are harder to see. Kind of like a child growing-up, the church is growing and by definition it is changing. That, is a good thing because as we change and grow we practice the resurrection.
One of the reasons why people fear change so much is similar to the reason why they fear death, because in a very real way change is death. It is the end of one way and the beginning of a new way. Another way to think about it is that change is a journey into a new reality where the outcomes while seemingly predictable, are really unknown. Among clergy, this is one of the things that fascinates us a lot in how a people that embrace a resurrection theology can fear change so intensely. Moreover, it is interesting because like death, change is inevitable and change is feared.
Yet, we are also called to overcome fears and live in to a resurrection life. This means that we not only accept a resurrection life, but we embrace that God has been active in past, our current and our future realities. This presence of God should bring a calm, to the ways in which we engage life because no matter where we find ourselves, we know that we are with God.
Yes, this is counter to our human instincts. For good reason, we fear what we do not know. That is how we have survived, but as resurrection people, death is no longer a great unknown. We know that there is a beyond, though what that actually looks like is hard to really understand. But today, we have a fairly good understanding of how the world works and often the fears we have, no longer really seem rational. This means that if we are faithful, the end is something that is not to be feared, rather, it is something that we should embrace and celebrate.
When I first came to this congregation we were in a funk. The prior ten years, though some may argue longer, were a rollercoaster of emotions. While the church hit some real highs, it also became a victim of the natural life cycle of a congregation, getting to the point where it was fixated on what it was rather then what it could be. In many ways we feared that if we changed anymore, the only thing that would surely come was more pain. But in a very real way, our past blinded us to the future and made us question the undergirding of our faith.
The Window project was the beginning of a new time in church when we made the deliberate choice to embrace the changes that were right in front of us. It was about the same time when we started on the windows that we started on the revitalization of the church. In both cases we worked on what was seen first, but the windows and the church both held their secrets. But that is to be expected and as we began to embrace the unknowns we also began to grow. In the case of the windows, funds that by all accounts should not have been there arrived. In the case of the church, we learned to reach out to the community and embrace them in new and powerful ways, helping them to see what Christian hospitality is and what a non-judgmental faith is all about.
Fundamentally, we took on the power dynamics that the church had developed and chose to trust in the Lord. This happened about four years ago during a session meeting where they collectively said “enough!” it was time to put the past where it belonged and let go of what was and embrace what will be. The power dynamics changed as we learned to trust each other and realize that while we did not always agree, it did not mean that we had to fight to win, rather we needed to listen and trust that God would show us the way. In a very real way, we learned more deeply than ever to trust in the Lord, for what happens here is not our doing alone and only by letting the spirit in, will we be able to do the ministry God calls us to do.
I hope that you can make it this Sunday to celebrate the windows and this new chapter of our congregations life trusting that God will guide us through all things, even the changes that are still before us!
Can you believe that many of our children and youth will be starting school this week! The summer has gone by so fast. Thinking about education this week’s letter looks at the role of education a core aspect to being Presbyterian. Much of this document, is based on excerpts from the Presbyterian Church Mission Agency and “A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education,” The Education and Congregational Nurture Ministry Unit, Presbyterian Church (USA.), 1987.
It is no surprise, that education has been central to the life of Presbyterians. While we are not the wealthiest denomination, we are the most educated. This started at the very roots of our tradition where clergy were seen to have roles of Rabbi’s (teacher) and mediators of the divine. This comes from a theological and Biblical understanding of the office of a Pastor. In fact, the historical title of a Pastor is Teaching Elder.
In fact as John Calvin was teaching and preaching he was also advocating support of free schools in Geneva where he was the city planner. John Knox, who brought Calvin’s reformed tradition to Scotland, also brought the concern that schools be provided for all children in Scotland. This was not unique to the Calvinists but, like today, not all of the church supported education in fact some preached against it. As a marker of this new tradition, education was woven into every level of the church.
In colonial times, Presbyterians joined with other churches in providing schools for children in whatever community Presbyterian churches were to be found. Academies and colleges were established to continue the tradition of learned clergy and to encourage the general development of all youth. A comparable commitment has characterized Presbyterian mission outreach in the United States among the non-European communities including notable historic Black colleges.
But often, as the Public School system in the United States took over, the Presbyterian Church relinquished their parochial schools to become public, believing in the need for a good education for faithfulness and understanding.
As Presbyterians, we believe that “an education of high quality for all children is an obligation of society and indispensable to the political and economic health of our democracy,” and that “we are called to respond in every possible way, with measures that seek to evidence love and justice in the education of children and youth.” --A Call to Church Involvement in the Renewal of Public Education (199th General Assembly, 1987)
However, to understand public education today, it is important to explore how it evolved and why. Understanding the roots of our public education system can help us understand the problems we face today.
As more immigrants arrived toward the end of the 19th century, education was primarily perceived as a social mechanism to change children into productive workers. Law and order, righteousness, and civil duty were stressed. The familiar descriptive metaphor of the melting pot is grounded in this influx of immigrants.
From these roots, our system of public education has branched out in an attempt to accommodate an increasingly diverse and varied population. Each branch, from secondary education to vocational education, through segregation to desegregation to bilingual education and so on, has emerged in response to the needs perceived by those in power. Our problems today and the challenges we recognize for tomorrow, must be evaluated in that light.
An overture to the 216th General Assembly in 2004, "On Improved Education for African American and Other Students placed at risk for an Excellent Education," called for action to address the concern that some children, particularly poor children, children of color and others on the margins continue to be left behind. Among its recommendations:
That Presbyterians be called upon to confront the stubborn continuance of racial prejudice, particularly the persistence of societal attitudes that discourage academic achievement among economically disadvantaged and children of color students and others at risk.
As we continue to think about spirituality and faithfulness, I think it is important to talk about spiritual practice. As I have written many times before, for me, I like an active spiritual practice. Preaching or hiking, but I need to be doing something in order to connect with God. To sit in quiet is something that I realized was not my thing. Knowing this about myself helps me to know why sometimes I will feel incredibly close to God and why at times I feel removed. I say this as a preamble of sorts to the letter this week, because it is about spiritual practices and the development of individual faith.
A few years back I was offered a class called 'Writing' as Spiritual Practice. Since a noted author and theologian taught the class, I took it, even though I was not sure that I could make writing a spiritual endeavor. While I do love to write, my learning disabilities constantly make me very self-conscious of my work and the sometimes-painstaking process of writing always seemed to be more about form and development, than God.
So when I saw the syllabus and recognized “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White, I almost withdrew from the class. Fortunately, that term there was not a better option and I continued with the class. What happened in that class was one of the most remarkable moments of my life. At that point, I had been ordained 9 years and much of my personal spiritual life was going through a survival period. I did what I needed to do to keep connected with God, but it seemed that my faith life was a struggle: no matter what I did I could not feel connected.
On the first day of class, we began by writing, not journaling; just writing whatever came to our heads. From there we wrote, read, rewrote and so on for two weeks. Sometimes we had starters (a sentence or two to give direction) and sometimes we did not. On one hand, I struggled every moment of the class, but on the other hand, I felt by the end of the class that I had been freed from a prison that kept me from connecting to God. As I wrote more and more, my friends would read and reflect back where they saw God in my writing and helped me identify the issues that were ultimately keeping me from connecting with God.
This class marked a turning point in my ministry because it witnessed to me through the structure within the class the importance of writing and listening to the faith of others and hearing the ways in which they could witness back to me about my faith. Interestingly, in almost every instance, those who I shared my writing with would highlight a struggle or moment of grace that I had not seen, even though I had written about it. This witness came to make me stronger in what I believed and would serve to be an incredible tool over the times that I have struggled with my faith.
It is interesting that this worked so well for me, but then again, writing, reading, and talking are all very active modes of spirituality and in the strongest of ways, the practice I learned in that class allowed me to connect in on a much deeper level. However, saying that, I know that not all spiritual practices work for me. I have, for instance, tried over the years to do contemplative spiritual practices and I can never connect to God through those. It does not make them bad or to be avoided because they do not work for me, I just know that is not my thing, where writing, sports, exercise, talking, preaching, etc. are ways in which I connect the strongest to God. I say this because even though I feel very connected to God when I write, or do any of the other things I do for spiritual focus, it is not always easy. In fact, it is usually quite difficult. However, when I finish I know where I am in my faith.
One of my views on how to live a life of faith is the example of what I would call a granny knot. A granny knot is a poorly tied knot usually done in haste that ends up being very difficult to untie.
Now, there are three truths to untie the Granny knot:
This is like faith and life. First, you’re not going to go anywhere in your faith if you do not start with a basic belief in God. It may take time to get there, but without that starting point nothing else will fully make sense and you will get frustrated and quit. This belief surpasses every issue that could arise and in the end you will experience God’s Grace.
Secondly, you need to live your life; don’t get too far ahead, don’t dwell in the past, but live. At times, you get to places that are harder than others and you have to be more vigilant and sometimes you can fly through because everything is working “as it should.”
Thirdly, you need to let things “play out.” When we try to force situations, bad things can and often do happen. I remember many years ago when I taught beginners swimming how many kids were terrified of the water because of the way they were forced to learn how to swim. Many times, with those who were timid, letting them move closer on their own, taking the time on land made them more comfortable in the water. In life and our struggles with faith, giving ourselves the grace that we need to work through a difficult time, not forcing things to be good right now but letting them “play out” can help us to see things much clearer and end up working out much better. Especially since a bad time may give a glimpse into something much deeper.
In my life, this has played out through various struggles in my life. Through the medical anxieties of my youth to the many struggles of life, the times where I give myself the grace and patience I have often seen things workout, as they ought. This is not about being passive; it is about being in the moment and working through the series, like the knot where you may have to work the strings back and forth to loosen the string, in life you may need to experiment to find what works. However, in time, if you have faith, patience and continue to move forward, eventually you get through it.
Maybe the best way to sum all of this up is “have faith in God, have faith in yourself, because God has faith in you.”
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen