I wish I could fix your faith with a single surgical Bible verse or the perfect mix of eloquent argumentation. I wish there was a 12-point diagram or a three-point sermon or an eight-minute program that could get your faith in shape, for the low-low price of Jesus’ grinning thumbs up.
When someone tells me to “Just cheer up” or “Be positive” or “Believe,” there’s nothing in me that doesn’t want to flip a switch and charge up my faith-meter. To tell me that I need to “just just just” is not as easy as a pat on the back of praying away your problems.
Faith isn’t a light switch. It’s a journey.
And that means it takes more than one epiphany. It’s more than one sit-down over coffee. It’s more than any one sermon or blog post or book or Sunday service. Certainly there are life-changing moments in each of these things; but faith is more of a woven tapestry knit by all these unique interlocking fabrics that paint a larger mosaic in the end, and no one can rush this with a magic formula. There’s no 800 number to grow a seed.
No one has the patience for this. It’s not natural to let things grow in their own pacing. We so badly want it now. We want the pain and doubts and frustrations to pass quickly; when we forget, this is all part of the journey too, and it’s all the deepest part of who we become.
Without growing pains, we only end up shallow and misinformed. Without pushing through the initial illusions of an easy faith do we begin to arrive at the rich vibrancy of a faith that bleeds and breathes.
Often I’ll hear a desperate plea for a rock-bottom dry spell of doubt or a prodigal friend going off the deep end. Most of the time, I really have no idea what to say.
Let’s say I did convince you back into faith. Let’s say I did convince your prodigal friend that their lifestyle would only kill them. Let’s say my voice happened to be louder than your doubts.
See: Forcing and coercion and persuasion only prop up a puppet; there is no life in a block of wood. I would only be whispering over a graveyard. You’d be persuaded only until something else could persuade you right out of it. When the spell of my eloquence would end, so would your puppet strings be cut.
I don’t want to do this to you. I don’t want to appeal to your propensity for a quick easy fix. I would rather teach you how to think than what to think. Because it’s only after you’ve tasted the truth for yourself could you ever fully decide to clamp down upon the meat and digest. Everyone needs to climb their own mountain, or else you shortcut the depth of your own convictions. My role is only to get out of the way and point. Our role isn’t to digest the food for each other.
If it were this easy, it wouldn’t be God who is working but only the clenching of my teeth. Who really wants the quick, pat cliche? Who wants the solution that wasn’t born out of sweat and catharsis? That won’t last past Tuesday. We need blooming and not a bullet.
It is right to ask for wisdom and help and advice. It is right to ask others about their own stories, their own troubles and trials. Yet at some point, we turn our eyes back to the road on Him, where we can pour out our confusion and questions and doubts; and He will give us grace and growth. He will breathe life into our hearts of stone, one breath at a time.