Last night I searched for the right container to store some leftovers. I knew I had the small lidded bowl somewhere, but it had temporarily disappeared – apparently engaging in the game of hide and seek that plastic-ware, socks, and cell phone chargers play with me.
Whatever. I one-upped the sneaky bowl by using a juice glass and covering it with plastic wrap. Not to be outdone, and all…
Lately I’ve noticed another trend in my life. My faith containers all seem to be the wrong shape and size to hold what they need to hold.
A few months ago I was on a phone call for work with an old family friend who runs a youth ministry. I’d not talked to her for – well – decades, and we were playing a (very quick) game of catch up. As she summarized her heart for the youth she serves, she said something that grabbed me and held on. “We want young people to learn how to read Scripture so that they allow God to define Himself rather than bringing their preconceived definitions of God to their study.”
Let’s give that a whirl.
So, in 2018, my intention is to read my Bible and record how God is defining Himself through what’s written. It’s been a remarkable exercise so far. Looking for and discovering God’s definition of Himself via His word every day has been like dropping anchor in a new ocean.
But there’s another thing going on in 2018, too – a life-thing.
My life-thing is no big deal in relation to most people’s. It’s just a tension, really. We have a blended family and for the last decade have been working out the hard reality that the dance of parenting/step-parenting/childing/step-childing is elegantly awkward and graciously graceless. Usually we have a pattern:
Same dance, different day.
Same struggle, different resolution.
Same fear, different way to exhale.
But. Our music just changed tempo. A few months ago, my husband took a new job and is traveling a lot
– basically every week.
The already awkward dance of co-parenting a well-meaning teenager who represents the half of our DNA that is emotional and easy to mess with (um…mine) has gotten way more unbalanced. For me. I don’t think the teenager or the husband have really noticed. They do awkward beats, no problem. But not this mama.
And so I’ve noticed that my faith containers aren’t holding what they need to hold: faith.
There’s the one that is shaped like earning. (“If I parent well, God will notice and things will go well.”) This container is either terribly shallow or entirely flat, depending on the day.
There’s the one that’s shaped like resignation. (“God has not answered prayers for our prodigal, so what’s to say that in His mysterious sovereignty He would answer prayers for the young soul still at home?”) This container has a gaping hole in the bottom.
There’s the one that is shaped like distance. (“My lack of insight into how to do any of this indicates that God must not be tuned in and must be very far away.”) This container isn’t a container at all. It’s akin to pouring leftovers down the drain.
Absent a reliable faith container, I encounter the misshapen forms of my own lack: rumination, control, anxiety, regret, frustration, sarcasm, escape, blame. Not pretty.
But today I’d like to say thank you to the family friend who challenged me to re-form my faith containers. To let God define Himself, so that my faith has space outside of myself and inside of something permanent. So that my faith is in what He says about Himself rather than in my pre-conceived, circumstantial assumptions that I bring to Him.
Thank you for reminding me to open my heart and my hands and receive the good word that comes when I lay down my earth-bound, time-bound, attachment-bound notions of God and pick up today’s gracious truth. The truth of a God who provides a container so big that nothing can drain it, a container so personal that every nuance of my being finds a corner to rest, and a container so sturdy that the churning waves of my life-thing can’t unbalance it.
Thank you to God who calls Himself “I Am” and then defines who He is in a million ways that hold.