Lessons Learned on Faith
I have been in a crisis of faith for the past few months because I am in new, uncharted territory in my life. For many years, I stayed in my marriage, in part because I was not able to financially support myself; it also did not help that I was sick with a thyroid problem for the final years of it. I found the courage to leave, which meant that I was taking a leap of faith that God would guide me to my answers.
At first, this seemed easy. I had lined up a plan that would support me for months, but as the months wore on, my plan did not work out according to plan. It was like that old saying about the way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans. Combine the challenges of balancing work and school, I was also leaving very little down time for me to really connect back to God for my answers. I started talking to friends about my challenges, and I started listening to their well-intended solutions instead of listening to God.
Last week, this fear about my finances came to a head when I told my seminary program that I would delay for another year because I could not see a path to pay for my tuition and still pay my bills. This was after a week of figuring out if I could sell my house to downsize or rent it out for income. I was angry, upset, and could really only feel a deep sense of lack.
Everywhere that I turned was another bill, a tax audit from Oregon State taxes, or back-to-school clothes that needed to be paid for. It felt as if God was abandoning me. I sobbed in the car in the middle of Vegas monsoon rain asking God to show me where he was. In the midst of this deep despair, I left seminary.
On Sunday, one of my co-directors did a Sunday service that was on faith, hope, and love. As soon as we started talking about faith, I began to squirm, wanting to get out of the room. As the discussion and meditation revealed to me, I left seminary because I didn’t have enough faith that if I spent my money, God would have my back. I used to do that often when I lived in Idaho; I would sell my dreams short just because I could not see the immediate answers and the full path ahead.
This is not the first time in my life where I have questioned God and had a lack of faith. I have experienced much deeper challenges before. This time, I saw clearly how I was anticipating that my life challenges would not work out. My behaviors and thoughts were deeply entrenched in fear, which was a clear sign that I was not aligned with my spirit. I was being controlled from a belief system that was going unexamined within me, and an example that I allowed what other people said to take me away from the education that I love; I heard the concerns in others and took that on as my own belief.
Someone at the Sunday service asked me if I knew how I was going to build up enough faith to complete seminary. I said that I would spend the money knowing that God has got me. I have been through many challenges in my life from dysfunctional family to being sick, and God has had my back through each and every one of them – although not always in the ways that I expected.
Each challenge actually brings me closer in my connection to God because each challenge forces me to surrender my life, accept what, and build up my faith muscles to live from my inner world out. I’m back in seminary and testing those muscles this year.
So the lessons I learned on faith are:
- God doesn’t abandon us; we abandon our trust in God.
- The guidance and wisdom we need are always within us, even when we can not access it.
- There are underlying trust issues that get in the way of trusting God.
- Changing our image of God (creating a God of our own understanding) is the key to having a God that we can trust.
- Faith is built in the challenges, like a muscle we exercise daily.
- Faith is not something we just have; it is something we earn throughout life.
- Once we meet the current challenge with faith, there will be another leap of faith that will challenge us to go deeper and seek a new level of connection with God.
- It is all going to work out in the end in ways that we never anticipate.
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