"Life has its lessons to teach us and there are certain lessons that I can't get in six weeks or six months."As Paul tells us in Romans 4, Abraham’s faith journey is not just an example to emulate, but a paradigm for grace. For comparison, there's Hebrews 11 where Abraham’s place among Scripture’s heroes in the pantheon of faith is underlined in v13, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”
My class of young adults were discussing how that translated into real life experience, and I had each person chart their own pilgrimage (as far as they could remember) from age zero to the present. Nothing scientific; just a process to kick off discussions. It was interesting to see the jagged inclines of individual journeys, sometimes with steep climbs and sharp falls, and mostly squiggly uneventful periods. It was funny-sad and instructive to hear each person caption his/her highs and lows.
“That’s when my Mom died.”When asked what challenges stood in the way of a life of faith, everyone talked about obedience - doing what God wants. Someone said the books she's read about Godly living disheartened as she was quite certain she was nowhere close to the sort of standards expected. “What happens if we die when we’re at a low point?” she asked. I looked around the table and I saw people who seemed sure of their faith, but were uncertain if God was sure of them.
“ I don’t remember much, but photos of my childhood showed a very happy child.”
“I didn’t enjoy secondary school at all.”
“That’s when I became a Christian and it was a good time.”
“Relationship problems – struggled a lot.”
“This is where I came out of a low point – I’ve seen things – I know better now.”
Romans 4 tells us that it was God who counted Abraham righteous, and not something old Abraham did to score points. As Abraham's children, we'll need to learn that grace is seeing salvation from God’s point of view. We get the descriptive and prescriptive passages in the Bible all mixed up, and we walk around like men and women with millstones around the neck. Mike Yaconelli’s chart reference (Messy Spirituality) was helpful to illustrate the lesson that it’s okay to admit to flaws and struggles because we’re in great company with the OT heroes of faith. I have come to understand that our checkered track record - diversions, falls, and detours - are legitimate struggles in Christ, and if 70% is what we can give that’s got to be as good as the widow’s two mites.
Faith is being sure of things we cannot see, so says the author of Hebrews. I guess that would have to include confidence in God’s unseen work in our often-messy lives, that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)