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Faith Reimagined: What do we think the story is?

What do we think the story is?

Last week we spoke about second wonder as a critical part of faith that lasts. Today we’re looking at the stories we carry around about faith, stories that can strengthen our faith or set us up for disappointment.

There’s a story that I think a lot of us carry in our heads that goes something like this: If I believe, if I’m faithful, things will work out for me. God will protect me and bless me. Things will go well and I will feel good.

It’s a nice story, right? It has a happy ending, and it makes us feel in control.

In general, I think that story is true. There are plenty of scriptures about how God blesses the humble and opposes the proud and wicked. Some of Jesus’ most famous words have to do with who, exactly, is blessed. And the Bible even promises that God will take care of us.

I believe all of that is true, BUT it’s not the whole story.

Let’s take Paul’s story, from the Bible. At one point God sends a literal earthquake to bust him and his friend Silas out of jail. They were faithful and things DID work out-that time. But Paul was also regularly persecuted for his teachings and ultimately was murdered for his faith.

Joseph with the famous rainbow coat is another great example. His story ends with him in charge of the whole country of Egypt. Before he lands that cush job, though, he’s sold into slavery by his own brothers and spends years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Of course, Jesus is probably the best example of the whole story. At his baptism, the voice of God literally booms from heaven to affirm him, and he’s ultimately raised from the dead. His story has a great ending! But in the middle, he experiences a long and painful struggle, including betrayal and death.

This is not the story we want to believe. I want to know that if I follow Jesus I will be protected, along with my loved ones.

Jesus doesn’t promise that. “In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus says, guaranteed. “But take heart-I have overcome the world.”

The Jesus story is not a story of guaranteed victory in every situation. It’s the story of death and resurrection. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story of renewal. The promise is not that no pain will enter our lives, but rather that when it does, every last betrayal, every last abuse, every last failure, will be redeemed, will be renewed, will be overcome.

Expecting this is not only the only way that will make real sense with your real life, but it’s also, when you realize it, when you see it happen, where the wonder lies.

So-what do you think the story is? And why? I want to leave you with a few questions to help you flesh that out, and maybe uncover where your story and the story Jesus tells line up, and where they differ.

Questions to consider:

  • What do you think the path to a fulfilled/happy life looks like? How does God fit into that story?
  • What do you expect from God in your life? How does this story you are living explain pain and disappointment?
  • What story were you told growing up and/or the story that you learned from religious communities? How has that matched your experience of life? 
  • How would you interpret your own life differently if you expected it to reflect the life story/experiences of Jesus? How would you interpret the pain and disappointments that you have faced differently? Do you like this view of your life and the way the universe works? Why or why not?

By Brad Zinn; Edited by Rebecca DeWhitt.

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