For about 6 months around the beginning of 2014 I started having a similar conversation over and over. About once a month I would get a call from someone in our church – “Brad, can we get coffee?” If you’re new or haven’t heard, that’s always an open invitation. If you would like to get together for coffee or a soda or whatever, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll find a time – my treat.
In these conversations, my friends would explain that they were thinking about walking away from Christianity. The reasons varied. One person described praying for a sister to recover from clinical depression for years with no change. Another said that the things that used to excite them about faith didn’t make sense anymore. Still another worried about beliefs they’d been taught growing up that they could no longer stand by.
Listening to my friends wrestling with faith brought up a question for me: how can we develop and discover a faith that will last? Today, and over the next few weeks I want to share a few things our church has learned over the last few years that I think can help answer that question.
The first is developing a sense of wonder. The Bible in Mark 10 describes a moment where people bring their children to be close to Jesus. The disciples start to turn them away, but Jesus tells them (verse 14) “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
When Jesus points to an example of faith in this story he points to the children. I wonder if it’s because children haven’t yet learned to be cynical. When they see something good, they embrace it fully.
For many people, this is the way faith starts too. It’s common for there to be a season where everything about Jesus and faith becomes real, alive, and blows you away. This wonder is the first wonder. It is childlike, but it hasn’t ever been tested by the painful events of real life. So when real life hits, we get three choices:
1) Try to pretend that nothing has changed, and deny the pain
2) Pitch it all and give up on God or
3) Find that God is actually in the uncertainty.
The problem with option three is that it involves giving up something we really want to hold onto-control. I want a story where I can control the safety of my family by living a certain way. I want to nail down the right way to think about things so that I’m certain that I’m right. I want to control how I look to others so that I’m not perceived as weak.
As human beings we’re always trying to push the faith out of our faith. That’s how we lose the wonder. That’s how we stunt our growth. We trade childlike maturity for childlike control. The invitation Jesus gives us is to let go of our need for control and walk with him into the uncertainty. There’s a 2nd wonder waiting for us to discover there that’s big enough for the challenges life has to offer.
By Brad Zinn; Edited by Rebecca DeWhitt.
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