Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Have Faith"

Have Faith
As small as a mustard seed.

"For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." - Matthew 17:20

How shall I count the ways I have been told and have told others to have faith? And when we hear the words, have faith, it feels and appears to be such an impossibly large and often unattainable asset. Have faith...two words than can be more daunting than comforting.

I can recall several times in my life where hearing those words were the last thing I longed for. Yet I knew that I would hear them over and over again. When you're down and out and feel like you're all alone in this ginormous world, that's when people seem to want to tell you to have faith. When you are suffering with great loss, whether a person, a place, a job, a dream...we are to have faith.

There was a time or two that the words, have faith, actually angered me. Just because I'm human and just because I have to suffer like everyone else with different plights, doesn't mean I don't have faith. It just means I'm a little beat up by the winds of the storm. It also doesn't mean I've given up or stopped trying to survive...but sometimes I just need comfort. Sometimes, people just need a hug, love, validation, compassion, empathy and someone to listen. Sometimes, there is no need for words. For me, I know I'm not ever completely alone. This is comfort to me. Being told I need to have faith makes me doubt the one thing that is constant and that is my faith. If I'm being told to have faith, than it must mean that it seems to others that I am without faith and then I've lost something for which their is no measurable value because it exceeds all limitations of worth.

Most people, if not all people, mean only good when using those words. They mean to be transporters of hope. I think we have misunderstood what it really means to have faith. To have something is to possess it or hold it. But what is faith? Is it a strong believe in God? Absolutely. But what else? For me, more than anything else, faith means unyielding and unmitigated trust in God.

I have found this kind of faith to be that enormous unreachable goal. How can I ever have an infallible trust in someone or something? I've been around long enough to know that people let you down. But God, has God ever really let me down? I mean, really? I don't think so.

So faith as a mustard seed? What a character this God! To take something so big like faith and compare it to something so small like a mustard seed. It's hard to wrap your head around the juxtaposition of qualifiers. Then I found the following scripture:

"He put before them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.'" - Matthew 13:31-32
“Mustard Seed” by Kazakhstani artist Nelly Bube

Now this, this is something substantive. Christ knew too the oddness of size, but he explained it in such a way that he truly put forth the idea that this thing, this faith, so small and tiny, is yet so powerful it transcends any size or measurement the human mind can compute. So you see, Jesus wasn't telling us we had to have this magnificent Mother Teresa like faith right away. He was telling us to start small. To plant this tiny seed in our hearts and then over time, this seed of faith will grow and grow and reach the heavens. And in this time, the visible faith that has become us will be so amazing that it can feed others just from its existence.

Maybe instead of telling people to have faith, we should tell them to tend their mustard seed. I believe we all inherently possess faith. And I believe we all want to trust beyond our own comprehension of the word. So it really isn't about having faith, that we have. What we don't yet have is the faith that feeds or moves mountains. And when times are tough, think of the vast array of seeds that have been planted in you by the people that God has blessed your life with. They weren't planted for no reason. Tend to your mustard seed, be strengthened and trust always that God will provide. After all, isn't that what we celebrate during this time of year? The ultimate provision of trust?


A Poem by Annie Johnson Flint

I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile
All sense of nearness, human and divine;
The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,
The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;
But while I swayed, weak, trembling and alone,
The everlasting arms upheld my own.

I prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,
The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,
The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,
And all my little candle flames burned out;
But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,
The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.

I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,
A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;
Above my head the skies were black with storm,
And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;
But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,
I heard His voice and perfect peace I knew.

I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed
My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,
Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed
Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;
Giver of good, so answer each request
With Thine own giving, better than my best.

Annie Johnson Flint

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