Thursday, July 2, 2009

Swimming for Faith

I love to watch my kids swim.

Ivy, having just turned 3, bobs in the water with her floaty vest on and her mouth just barely hovering above the water line. She swims all over the pool with her head straining to stay out of the water. It's heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. Her persistence coupled with her newly developing water skills make her a sight to behold.

It's like watching a calf try to walk for the first time. The whole thing is some ballet of awkwardness. Muscles learning their purpose. Uncertain steps being taken slowly and deliberately. Failure and success taking turns throughout the process and determination keeping the whole thing moving.

I like to think I've made it through all those awkward stages but lately I think I've become more and more aware of what an ugly sort of dance I'm in the middle of. My problem lately is simply this - I just can't seem to get the hang of this whole faith thing.

I know God is real. I know He is with me. And, if I'm really lucky, when things go bad I remember to turn to Him for help. It's just that the instinct to turn to Him seems to be mostly when it's the little bad things and not the big bad things that come my way.

My problem is that I lack faith in whether God will sustain me through difficult times. And the root of that is, if I'm honest, blatant materialism. God never promised us nice perfect houses and well-manicured lives. He promised not to give us something we couldn't handle. He promised not to leave us or forsake us. But, I want that to mean that I'll never have to struggle financially. Or endure emotional pain. And the thing is, that isn't realistic.

Like a spoiled child who always demands a present, I've tied God's love to my circumstances. I lose faith in His love for me when I don't get my way. In that way I'm no different than Kai or Ivy who accuse me of not loving them each time we leave Target without a new Hannah Montana doll. In those moments as I drag them out the door pouting and crying and insisting I'm the worst mommy ever because they didn't get the toys they wanted right that very moment, I think to myself, "Can't you see that my love for you is bigger than some silly toy? Can't you see that these stupid toys will be sitting in the Goodwill box in a few years while my love for you continues on?" I want to shake them out of their superficial understanding of my love for them. I want desperately for them to understand how big that love is. Does it not stand to reason, then, that God wants the same thing from me?

Last week God and I had a rough week. I posted that post about my keys and was all proud that I'd been happy with that little bit of encouragement. And then the next day, Thomas didn't get paid. He worked his hours. He did his job. And because someone in his department didn't do one thing that needed to be done he just didn't get paid. Though that didn't stop every bill I had scheduled online from clearing at exactly the same time leaving us with a bank balance that started with - and was highlighted in red. Which, as I'm sure you know, is never a good thing.

And then I had a fight with God. A big one.

'Cause, after all, hadn't I just told everyone how great He was for letting me know He was there with my keys? And hadn't I been so spiritually evolved when I said that it was enough for the day?

It was an ugly fight. And if I believed that God was the type to hold a grudge I'd be pretty scared right now about an imminent lightning strike. Luckily, I don't think God is really the lightning type.

In fact, as it turns out, He's more of the kill them with kindness type. Because despite all my tantrums (and a few very un-kosher words) He sent us a really huge (and much needed) blessing at the end of the week. And suddenly my faith was restored.

But, the problem is, if my faith depends on my circumstances then it can't really be faith, can it? At least not the kind that it should be.

For me, the whole thing is a lot like learning to swim. I can tell Kai or Ivy exactly how to swim. I can talk them through the steps. But unless it just clicks for them they're never going to get it. Something has to happen in them to make it work. And that is nothing I can give them.

And that is where I am right now. Struggling to swim in this sea of uncertainty and turmoil. Struggling to hang onto the buoy of faith that I know is there but that keeps alluding me. This is a lesson I need to learn. It is one I desperately want to learn. But, oh how I hate going through what it takes to learn it.


Anonymous said...

You should be proud of yourself for that one.


kellymac said...

Thank you for sharing this. I nodded a lot reading it. I sometimes feel like faith comes easy to everyone else and I must have missed the day in Sunday School when they passed something out.

Debra said...

Exceptional writing! Really.

Carey said...

That was absolutely beautifully written and very thought-provoking. You're not alone in thinking that way. I often have to remind myself that during the hardest of times, the lessons that are learned and the strength that comes from getting through the struggles are also gifts from God. Wonderful post!

Tiffany @ Lattes And Life said...

Beautiful expression....

I'm with you on this one. I had a big fight with God the last few days too. I distinctly remember yelling something about "if you won't give me more than I can handle, why won't you let this baby sleep?!?!". Yea.

It's a hard hard walk. I'm always questioning. Then I feel guilty for questioning because surely that must mean I'm not faith-filled, and what kind of Christian questions anyway? Like you say, good thing He isn't into lightning...