Authentic Faith Isn't Placed on a Pedestal

11:10 AMHeather

Last week, I saw many pictures of friends who were dressed up for Superhero Day at our church's Children's Day Out program.  Adorable!  And, it occurred to me that when I think of Superheros, I often think of those giants of the faith in the Bible.  Those characters from Bible stories that I listened to on audio tapes as I drifted to sleep as a little girl.  Superhumans like David and Joshua and Abraham.  

And, I'm here to tell you that this kind of thinking has gotten me into a lot of trouble.  Because I spent the first twenty years of life thinking that my faith walk should look like theirs, remembering the highlights of their victory.  I thought being a Christian was really most like Enoch.  You know--the man who walked with God and was just taken up to heaven.  He never experienced death because he walked "so good" with God.  

But, for the last twenty-one years, I've realized how very delusional this kind of thinking is.  Because it can lead to a legalistic faith, a faith that tries to perform and maintain a certain standard.  A faith walk that must follow in certain Superhero footsteps in order to be deemed worthy.  

The truth of it is that I've discovered something in the last few years that is finally making a difference in how I view my faith.  The truth of it is that my walk with Christ actually doesn't so much look like Enoch's walk, but rather like Jacob's wrestling match.  For me, its my natural tendency to think that faith means never questioning God, never doubting, always trusting and spouting off long passages of Scripture by memory.  It means filling up a gold star chart and doing it all right and well in order to prove your faith is real.

But, that isn't real faith at all.  That's just covering up and stuffing our own human failures rather than dealing with them.  That's simply putting on airs and perpetuating some myth that Christians are somehow better than the rest of the world.  

The truth is, we're not.  Christians are no better than the rest of the world.  In fact, we can sometimes get so hard headed and short sighted that we actually behave in a way that is worse.  We soil the name of Christ every time we condemn and distance ourselves from someone because of their life style, economic status or lot in life.  I believe that if you had to boil down Christ's earthly ministry into one word it'd be LOVE.  Or GRACE.  Or both?  I know.  That's two words.  But, that is the root of our faith, isn't it?  Yet, we so often create a chasm between ourselves and the world because we live under this delusion of being a Superhero of faith.  Of a faith seen by our walk.

Truly, the most authentic faith I've ever experienced was not marked by someone's walk but rather by their wrestling.  By their wrestling through the tough stuff and the questions and the doubts and the raw feelings with their God.  In a crisis of faith, we usually don't walk.  Oh, we might act as though we're fine and hide behind a mask.  But, if we really want to dig into our faith and live it out, we have to wrestle things through, facing God head on to work it out.

Glimpse of GRACE:  Unfortunately, I don't remember many of my dad's sermons because he was a pastor during my teen years.  I was a master at tuning out.  But, I can remember one sermon on Hebrews 11 that Dad called the Hall of Fame for Faith.  THESE were the heros of faith that I remember from my childhood Bible stories.  They had a strong faith walk.

But guess what?  When I look into Hebrews 11 now, after much life has happened to me, I realize that most of these men and women have rather infamous seasons of wrestling, not walking.

Noah?  Yes, he built an ark.  Tis true.   Genesis 9 also tells us how Noah got smashed, passed out naked in a tent, and shamed himself when family members caught sight of him in that condition.

Think Noah always walked?  Or maybe he wrestled through some personal troubles?

Abraham.  You know, Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham.  Oh, yes, including Ishmael.  Because this great father of the faith took matters into his own hands as he waited for that promised son and listened to his desperate wife who was wrestling with waiting.  Abraham slept with the maidservant, and boom.  There's Ishmael.  Abraham's faith to wait for God's promise was "credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:20).  Yet, he didn't always walk.  Sometimes he wrestled.

Jacob.  Sure, Jacob.  Whose name means deceiver.  A rather fitting title.  He deceived his father and stole his brother's birth right.  And, yes, Jacob wrestled with God.  Literally.  In Genesis 32.

Moses, the great deliverer and leader of the people of Israel.  Let my people go!  This was his cry to Pharoah.  Moses.  Who killed an Egyptian guard of the slaves.  I'm a-thinking he might have wrestled a bit with that one mentally and emotionally as he ran into the desert to escape after his murderous crime.

The people of Israel who walked on dry land through the Red Sea.  And built a golden calf.  And griped and complained and whined.  As they walked through their 40 years in the wilderness, I think it's clear to see how they continually wrestled with God due to their circumstance.

Rahab makes the Hebrews 11 Hallway of Fame for faith.  Rahab the prostitute.

David.  The adulterer who plotted murder in order to cover his sin when Bathsheba when she became pregnant.  David.  The one called the man after God's own heart.  David the great Psalmist.

Yes, my friends, I think I'm learning and grasping at last what an authentic faith walk looks like.  It's actually not a walk at all.  It's more like a wrestling match, day by day.  Or even minute by minute.  To choose God's way over my own flesh.  To go against my own nature to look out for self and wrestle that to the ground so that I might honor others before me.   I have seasons where I'm upright.  But, then I stumble again.  Authentic faith is not a faith that never struggles.   Authentic faith is not the story of some Superhero we can place on a pedestal.  Not at all.  Authentic faith is rather doing the hard work to wrestle things through as we pursue God.  It's standing up again when we stumble.  It's actually acknowledging all the humanness within us as we reach to love and know the diety of Him who loved us.  A love so full of grace that he accepts us, thorns and all.  And proudly wore them in a crown as he died to pay the price.   That we might come to know him, love him, and wrestle things through on this earth before we reach our Heavenly Home.           

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