I just don’t have you most days.
At least not out of my own volition. I don’t have the ability to call up a clarified sense of who Jesus is, how He wiped my sins away so that I could feel joy right in this moment. True, unadulterated faith, is usually not something I possess. I’m sorry, Faith.
And particularly in recent years as I watched my mom struggle, as I watched my dad fade away, and as transition was required almost constantly, I just didn’t have it. Was I spending too little time in my quiet reflection of the Bible and worship music? Could you point to just a total lack of faith – not even a mustard seeds’ worth, apparently or perhaps?
I think I know why I don’t always have faith:
I think it’s because I knew I was covered by the faith of my community.
Nadia Bolz-Webber, a fascinating specimen of a Jesus lover who defies stereotype talks about community in a way I love:
“I don’t think faith is given in sufficient quantity to individuals necessarily. I think it’s given in sufficient quantity to communities. The same with that whole thing like God will not give you more than you can bear. I don’t think God will give you more than a community can bear. And we’ve individualized this thing of faith so much …”
I remember a friend once practically begging me to pray for her because she absolutely. could. not. There was nothing special about MY prayer – understand that. She and her family were dealing with legal issues and were so emotionally strung out that she couldn’t sit by and reflect on God and His power. She wasn’t denying His existence or His power. Rather, she knew she needed prayer, prayer, prayer to make it through.
And when I am praying for someone, I develop more focused questions for their heart, better ideas on what could serve them, more intentional tenderness toward their plight. The Holy Spirit moves within us to give us ideas that would never ordinarily occur to us.
So, Faith, I have to address part of this letter to my community
You people are the kind that sends notes of care and sympathy beyond imagining, notes I could frame because of the beauty of their sentiment
You are the people who come with dinner and don’t ask if the time is right – you feed 4 or 40.
You send me notes, texts and emails like this:
Please let me know how we can stand for your family.
My heart is aching for you.
It would be a privilege for me to serve your family in this way
We are lifting you before our Father…
I will rub your feet.
You people are made like that school of fish in Finding Nemo – pointing me forward:
You are makers, doers, prayers and “faith-ers.” You serve and you do it out of the overflow of your heart like His.
But even now as I try to describe the sufficiency of faith in a community, I just cannot fully express it. I am hopelessly phrase-less in the face of it. I think it’s because in a crisis, when we are overwhelmed, numb and unable to move ahead, our community can move us, FOR us.
Nadia Bolz-Webber goes on to say:
“I can’t say the Apostles Creed because I don’t know if I believe every line in the Creed. I’m like, oh, my God. Nobody believes every line of the Creed. But in a room of people, in a room of people, for each line of the Creed, somebody believes it. So we’re covered, right?”
Right?! I love this! Even if it feels a little sacrilegious, somehow together we all can believe and proclaim in a different way than if it’s just me, sitting there alone, trying to really mean it.
In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.
Faith, I have you. I live out of you, but not without my people, their hand on that anchor, holding onto mine.