Held, always

daveandpj hands

My husband’s and youngest child’s hands–in an incredible shot taken by my oldest

“Mom, how do you know you’re a Christian?”

My child who has never seen shades of grey—least of all in herself—has begun wrestling with some of the hard questions of faith. Tonight she is struggling with a question I remember from my own growing-up years.

How do I know I’m saved? I don’t feel saved. I’m not doing a very good job as a Christian right now. I’m not loving God much—others either. I feel distant, and God seems vague—or worse. What if it was all fake—and I’m not really saved?

Oh, yes, I remember.

I also remember what I did in response: said the sinner’s prayer again (and again, and again), just to be sure, just to “seal the deal.”

But that’s not what I suggested to my troubled child. Instead I used a metaphor.

Do you remember when you were little and I would carry both you and your brother on my hips from the car into the store?

A nod.

Did you always hold onto me?

Head shake.

Sometimes you did. Sometimes you clutched tight, arms and legs. I could have let go completely, and you would have still hung there like a little monkey.

But much of the time you were like a sack of potatoes—you left it all up to me—and other times you actually struggled to get down. You pushed against me. I had to hold on tight.

I looked into her eyes.

We’re all like that with God. There are times we cling, times we know our desperate need for God, and we hang on for dear life. But that’s not all the time; it’s not most of the time. Most of the time we sit like a disinterested sack of potatoes. We’re not really concerned with our relationship with God. We’re not working on it. Sometimes we actually push him away. We don’t want anything to do with Him.

Her look changes from worried to thoughtful.

Did I ever just drop you when you acted like that?

No.

Neither does He. He’s still holding you, no matter what.

And because I have learned much lately about the Body of Christ and our deep responsibilities as members of it, I told her this.

Darling, I see the evidence of God’s work in you. I’ve seen it for years. I remember the first moment you said you really wanted to follow Christ, and I saw transformation even then. It’s still happening now. I am testifying to you of God’s work in you, of His faithfulness to continue His work in you.

Not long after this conversation, I read a book about us Christians being invited into a community of atonement, and I remembered a story someone once told me about a man, a Christian, who was in deep distress. He’d lost a dear loved one and his grief was overwhelming him. A fellow Christian encouraged him to continue coming to church, and the man responded, “I can’t participate. I can’t pray. I can’t even recite the Lord’s Prayer or sing the Doxology. I can’t do any of it.”

His friend told him, “That doesn’t matter. We will do it for you, on your right, on your left, in front of and behind you. We will praise and confess and worship around you, for you, in a sense. It will carry you along, and when you are ready, you can join in again.”

I have long loved the prayer cried out by the father who asked Jesus to heal his child: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. I have prayed it many, many times myself. And I am beginning to understand that not only does the Lord personally help—with the Father’s strong, gentle hand, with the whisper and comfort of the Holy Spirit, with the active Gospel accomplished by and in the Son—but He also helps through His Body, His Church.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (RSV)~ Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10: 19-25 (Message)~ So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. 22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

No true risk

“Jesus is greater than we have yet learned, more able than we have yet seen, more willing than we have yet dreamed, and infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.”

The above quote is from “Unrolling the Scroll of Freedom” by Beth Moore, published in the March 2015 issue of Christianity Today. (The entire article is a valuable read; the link above is to the one-page, reader-friendly version of it).

One particular part of that quote is leaping, arms waving, for my attention. “Jesus…is infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.” It makes me ask myself, What areas of comfort or safety or self-control am I holding onto because I’m not willing to completely trust that Jesus is worthy and great and able and willing?

Isaiah 30 is a message to the people of Israel about their trust in Egypt. They consulted and counseled each other and made a plan, but God tells them their plans are not His. They looked to Egypt to be their strength and protection and didn’t listen to the Spirit of God. In verse 20, God tells them they have experienced adversity and trouble because they have not trusted in Him, but He longs to reveal Himself to them.

Verse 21 reads, “…your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.'”

And what is the result of this close listening, this devoted obedience?

“Then you will defile your carved images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold; you will cast them away as a filthy bloodstained cloth, and you will say to them, ‘Be gone!'”

The Israelites would see the comfort, safety, security, and self-control as worthless compared to intimate relationship with their Teacher.

“Jesus is greater than we have yet learned, more able than we have yet seen, more willing than we have yet dreamed, and infinitely worthier than we have yet risked.”

Holy Spirit, be my Teacher. I want to learn more of the greatness of Jesus; I want to see His ability more clearly; I want to understand and dream about His willingness to work in and through me; I want to know He is infinitely worthy, and I want to throw away all else I am holding onto for security, comfort, or safety. I want to walk, wholeheartedly, in His ways. 

There is no true risk in trusting Jesus.