Every year my learners go through writing bootcamp. We add to their knowledge of words to start sentences with. Some are simple – the, it, he, she, they. Others make sense but are a little harder – ly words – naturally, surely, simply, quickly. Then there are the hardest ones of all, the ones that feel like a stretch – prepositions – in, out, beside, under, over. Once they feel confident starting sentences in these different ways, it’s amazing how creative they can get with their work.
I’ve recently been challenged that I may have prepositional faith. And while using a preposition in writing might be a good and creative way to express your impressions, inserting a preposition into the journey of faith might actually be detrimental and a hindrance.
I know I’ve said these phrases, written them too – I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. They’re good statements.
To believe in something is to confirm its existence. You agree with the principle of the thing. You don’t deny the possibility of it being there. When it comes to believing in God, I agree, He exists. He is real. It is so much easier to keep Him at an arm’s length if you believe in Him.
But, get rid of the “in.” That changes the statement completely. I believe God. I believe Jesus.
When I am honest with myself, I don’t always believe God. I don’t always believe Jesus. I have read the words many times. I’ve seen the words in red. Quickly my eyes have often dashed over the words and caused them to be trivial and unimportant. The Word of God is not trivial but life changing. If I stop and reflect on it, there’s nothing trite about it, but rather it reaches into my heart and life and searches me out.
But do I believe God? Do I believe Jesus? Yes, mostly.
Do I doubt God? Do I doubt Jesus? Yes, too often, certainly.
Why? In my mind, I’ve set God up against my standard (as if my standard is even one that is worth holding up), and I’ve expected Him to jump through certain arbitrary hoops of my choosing. I know God smiles when I set up these obstacle courses because they are examples of my vain attempts to control my life and its circumstances. As if the God of the universe needs to submit to my “test” in order to prove His worth, His awesomeness, His ability. These attempts on my part to limit God then often become my rationalizations for why it feels like I can’t hear God, why it seems that He is far away from me. He will never fit my expectations because my expectations are so much less than what He truly is. He is far beyond what I could ever dream or imagine. And every time I put a limit on Him, which I often define as “peace,” I choose to shrink my faith and give into the fear that if I can’t hold it, define it and manipulate it, it’s not worth pursuing and it certainly isn’t God asking me to do something.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984)
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. Hebrews 11:1 (MSG)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 2011)
Faith is a mystery. I don’t really like mysteries if I’m honest. They make my stomach churn, the answer doesn’t come as quickly as I would like it to, if at all. They make my heart race a little faster than I want. They make me want to turn the page, or change the channel to relieve the tension. But faith, is a mystery. In great faith, there is a certainty, a sureness, a confidence in something that cannot be held with the hand, but is deeply grasped with the heart. Faith requires, demands even, a step even a leap into the unknown. To believe God, to believe Jesus, is to take that leap of faith and to submit. To admit that I have no answers to the questions that barrage me, but to look to my Father who is one with the Son and to trust that I am held in the best arms. To know that the questions I ask Him are questions that He is not afraid of. And therefore, to ask away. To know that He delights to speak with me and He wants to hear my voice too. To know that His character qualities – His goodness, His holiness, His redemption, His salvation, His grace, His mercy and so much more is exactly what my heart needs. None of these things can be found in the boxes that I try to make Him fit into.
Instead when I leave fear and the “in” behind and take Jesus at His word, when I really believe the things that He says and how He reveals God the Father, He continues to open paths that I don’t anticipate.
He asks me to trust Him. He asks me to exercise my faith. It’s a matter of leaving the preposition out and jumping wholly into arms that will never let me go.
It turns out that I want un-prepositional faith.