Tuesday, May 8, 2012

stepping out

What keeps us from being willing to take a step out of the boat, like Peter did, and ask Jesus to save us?

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that there were layers to our hesitation.

On one level, the most obvious level, is the issue of reasonableness.  How reasonable is faith, really?  For Peter, it was insane.  He sees some dude, who has, of course, been doing some pretty amazing things, walking out in the middle of a tempest on a lake, and he decides to get out too.  I can think of a hundred reasons that's a stupid thing to do... you can't walk on water, for one.  And yet he believed that Jesus was Lord of the wind and the waves and he put his faith in Jesus to save him, so he got out of the boat.

The next level is harder to see, but it's kind of in the background of everything.  That's the spiritual issue of pride.  Going way back to the beginning of the world, the reason that people's relationship with God is broken is that we have wanted to be like God in naming good and evil.  We have wanted to measure our own choices and even God's choices by the rod of our own value system.  We have kicked and screamed and rebelled against even the idea that someone should be telling us what to do and how to live.

And then there's the level that we all know is there, but we tend not to talk about: the emotional part.  I don't get out of the boat because I feel like I'm gonna look stupid.  I don't follow Jesus because I don't trust him. 

For those rational questions about faith, we've had hundreds of people over hundreds of years answering those questions.  We have books and resources and access to information that dialogues with and explains those issues.

For the spiritual question of faith, we are dependent on the Spirit of God to transform and change us--to breathe life into us like Jesus talked about when he spoke with Nicodemas that night so long ago.  We can fast and we can pray and we can beg God to intercede, but at the end of the day, this part of faith is a mystery.  The Spirit blows as a wind and we see the evidence but don't know where it came from, where it is going, or why.

But those emotional issues... we don't talk about those much.  Somehow we think that all it takes for a person to have faith is the right knowledge and the Spirit's work.  But as I've gotten to know a lot of people at a lot of different points in life and faith, I've noticed that the emotional questions seem to be gaining importance in whether people ever start to follow Jesus.  They also seem important in whether we're ever able to follow him with complete abandon.

Why doesn't the church talk about this?  Why don't we interact with these emotional barriers to faith?  We can pretend that they aren't there, but they don't just go away.

I want to talk a little more about how to interact with these barriers in our own lives and when we recognize them in others.  But for this week, I just want to ask you to identify the barriers in your own life.

What keeps you from following Jesus?  What keeps you from following him with all your heart and soul and mind and spirit?  Invite Jesus to meet you there and to start knocking those barriers down.

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