“I don’t know why people are surprised or embarrassed when they find out their faith is weak and full of holes. It’s because they are weak and full of holes.”
At a conference I was at two weeks ago at Southeastern Theological Seminary, one speaker, in traditional Baptist fashion, while giving an illustration, said, “I was arguing with the Holy Spirit…and of course, He won”, with his inflection making it obvious that the Holy Spirit winning was a foregone conclusion. Now, of course everyone listening to him knew that it wasn’t true, that the Holy Spirit doesn’t always win. They knew that both for themselves and the speaker, more often than not we win, we don’t give a damn about what the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do. But as a Baptist preacher, speaking at a Baptist seminary, he knew there was no expectation of honesty. The goal is to always present a picture of being perfect, of being totally surrendered, of having a great, regular quiet time and prayer life and of desiring nothing more than a closer relationship to God. Forget telling the truth – if we don’t have it all together, why would anyone else want to become a Christian?
Growing up as a good Independent Baptist, that’s the kind of stuff I’ve heard all my life. Weaknesses are not admitted without a resolution tacked on, struggles are not spoken of if they are still ongoing, and a lack of faith or trust in God is only admitted as something that you have struggled with in the past, before you learned to really trust Him, where of course you are now.
And I’m sick of it. If that’s Christianity, then I’m done. I’d walk away today.
But then I hear sermons like the one I heard Sunday night from Kevin Twit, where he said, “I don’t know why people are surprised or embarrassed when they find out their faith is weak and full of holes. It’s because they are weak and full of holes”. And he went on to echo much of what Frederick Buechner says about faith, that, “Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.” Buechner describes a Christian as “one who is on the way, though not necessarily very far along it, and who has at least some dim and half-baked idea of whom to thank”.
Philip Yancey, in “Soul Survivor”, articulates well the reason Buechner’s writings resonate with me and with others. Yancey writes, “I find companionship in Buechner’s writings because for me, too, faith is a Pascalian gamble. Though I spend my life in pursuit of God, I often sense that God lies just around the next bend in the trail, just behind the next tree in the forest. I keep walking because I like where the journey has led me thus far, because other paths seem more problematic than my own, and because I yearn for the resolution of the plot. I know a little of life’s tragedy. I have tasted of its comedy. I keep walking because I believe in the fairy tale, that a God strong and wise enough to create a world stamped with such beauty and goodness will be faithful in restoring it to the original design. With Buechner, I place a bet on God’s firm promise that in the end, all will be well.”
So if you are in an environment where everyone puts on their best face, where you are expected to have it all together, to be fully surrendered and without doubts 100 percent of the time, please know that that is not true Christianity. Don’t let yourself become disillusioned by a shadow of the real thing. And realize that you can help things to change, that you can be the first to admit that not everything is perfect but that you still trust, sometimes, and that it is enough.