“Here’s to fragility and recognizing the treasure that can be found living in the lowlands in the place where faith and doubt, courage and fear, surrender and struggle, bravery and timidity and belief and unbelief happily intermingle and coexist quite nicely without needing to cancel one or the other out totally.”
The quote above came from Robin Frost who was empathizing with me after one of last week’s Catches. Robin is one of our regular readers who sends me comments from time to time and I always think when I glance at the name that I am getting an email from a great American dead poet. But that’s Robert. However, Robin waxed poetic in this comment that I think captures the reality of where we all live all the time.
I don’t believe anyone actually lives in the highlands, where faith, courage, surrender, bravery, and belief rule without doubt, fear, struggle, timidity or unbelief. To put on airs, that life can always be like this, is to be dishonest on a number of levels, not the least of these being that it is unbiblical. Paul taught us that his life in the Spirit lives in a body of death that he carries around all the time so that the life of Christ might be seen through his mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10-11). In other words, you need to see both the highs and lows of experience in order for the reality of faith to be passed on.
I remember growing up close to a family in our church where the dad was a renowned surgeon during the week, a Bible teacher on Sundays and the epitome of optimism all the time. He was always bouncing on the balls of his feet with a booming voice that would always embarrass us kids when our families were at a restaurant together and he would pray before the meal — pretty much taking over every other conversation in the room. However, because his son was one of my best friends, I spent a good deal of time in his home, and at home, I saw another side of this man that made this public persona somewhat dishonest.
The problem with this model of spirituality is that it makes everyone else either draw back into themselves or try to compete, neither of which is going to be very healthy. Because we all live in the lowlands most of the time, we need a realistic model of spirituality that incorporates all these ambiguities of life awhile also providing hope, and it is a relief when we discover that, indeed, this is much closer to the biblical model. We experience the life of the Spirit in the midst of the doubts, struggles and fears of human existence.
Just as Robin empathized with me and was able to bring me encouragement in the lowlands, so we all can encourage one another, because we surrender out of our own struggle, we have courage in spite of our fear, we are brave in the face of our own timidity, we have faith in our doubt and belief in the midst of unbelief. You don’t get this by bouncing on tiptoe and booming your voice; you get this by living your faith out honestly day-by-day in the lowlands of life, being as honest with the questions as we are with the answers.
Did I just bound out of bed this morning, eager to take on whatever challenge the day might bring? No. Did I hit the snooze button twice because I wasn’t ready for it to be Monday yet? Yes. Yet here I am, and there you are, and Christ is here in our midst. And with that in mind, let’s get going!