Tuesday at Ten is a weekly link-up at Karen Courcy’s blog, Finding the Grace Within. There’s a new prompt word each week, and we just write as we’re moved and share what we’ve written. Check out this week’s link-up here, and join us on Facebook, too!
This week’s word is FAITH.
Faith. Such a small word, such a big concept. Merriam-Webster defines it as “strong belief or trust in someone or something” or “belief in the existence of God: strong religious feelings or beliefs.” But to those of us who are Christians, faith is something else entirely.
Faith – real, convicting, life-sustaining faith – is something I’ve often struggled with. Growing up, my mother made sure that she and I made it to church, but my dad didn’t go with us. I knew he was a Christian, but he grew up in a different denomination and wouldn’t go to the church my mother and I attended. He read his Bible a lot, and liked to discuss the finer points of some pretty deep theological questions, but I don’t ever remember hearing him talk about seeking God’s will for a situation, or praying for help with a difficult decision. I don’t doubt that he did those things, I just never saw them. He was a farmer. He did a pretty good job at it. We weren’t rich, but I never lacked for much of anything. Given the nature of how he earned his livelihood, I’m sure he prayed for the weather to do the right things at the right time, for his crops to grow well, and for the market not to fall. But I never saw that. I just saw his hard work and sweat and effort. So while I grew up in a Christian home, I didn’t grow up in one where our faith was something that was visibly discussed and exercised and lived out.
I made the decision to accept Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old, at a revival in our church. For me, it was always a more logical thing. It just made sense to me. But I never really felt like I had a heart-deep faith that impacted every area of my life. I was always pretty self-sufficient. I didn’t seek God’s guidance on college major or graduate degree or profession. I never really figured on getting married, so when I met someone and it turned serious, God and I never talked about whether marrying this man was the right thing to do. I didn’t feel Him pulling me in any particular direction on any of that (probably because I wasn’t paying attention), and it never even really occurred to me that God would be interested in, or have an opinion on, what I should do with my life.
As I grew older, when problems hit, my first impulse wasn’t to pray. My first thought was, wow, what can *I* do to fix this? (Note: Intelligence does not give one the ability to “fix” everything, but that didn’t stop me from trying.) When new jobs came along, I didn’t ask God if that was where He wanted me. I looked at the salary, the benefits, and tried to figure out if that was the best I could do, if that would meet our family’s needs. Oh, sure, if I was looking for a job because I’d lost a job, I prayed a lot about that – asked God to open up a door quick, but I never gave much thought to whether the next door that opened was the one He had in mind for me. I did what seemed best to me, and any praying I did about any of it was along the lines of, “God, please help me out of this mess,” and then I’d blindly charge ahead with what I figured should be done without waiting for His answer. (I’m telling you, “It seemed like a good idea at the time” is going to be my epitaph.)
But as I’ve grown older, life has changed. The man I married when I was young fell in love with someone else. We went our separate ways, and I found myself a single mom to a preschool boy. I was miserable in a lot of ways, and in my foolishness, I turned away from the faith I’d grown up with. I quit going to church. I dabbled in things, religion-wise, that my mother would most assuredly not have approved of. And then the wheel turned, and things changed, and I realized that was a foolish pursuit. It hit me hard that I needed to ask God’s forgiveness and go back to the beliefs of my childhood.
I got married again. Gave birth to my second son. Financial miseries stemming from my first marriage were ongoing. Lost a house. Lost a job. But even though there were challenges aplenty, we weren’t overwhelmed. Things were scary, things were difficult, and I learned that it’s not true that God won’t give us more than we can handle. My whole life, I had handled things, or tried to. God let a bunch of stuff come into my life that I couldn’t handle, waiting to see if I would give it to Him. And to a large degree, I did, although my control-freak tendencies made it (and continue to make it) hard for me to let go and be completely hands off.
Fast forward to now. If you’ve read my blog for a bit, you know that last year was not great from a financial standpoint. (Seems like our issues are always about the money. I find that highly ironic, given that my dad was frugal to the extreme. But that’s another thought for another day.)
A couple of months ago, I felt like we needed to check out a church closer to our home. The one we’d attended since we moved here is a lovely church, and we didn’t feel compelled to leave it so much as we felt like we couldn’t really get connected, couldn’t really meet needs (or even know about them) when just about all logistics allowed us to do was make it to church on Sunday mornings. So we made our first visit to the new church the first Sunday in January. The pastor spoke on tithing. (We’ve had a couple people tell us since that they figured we might run off when that was the very first topic we heard talked about! LOL Nah, takes more to run us off than that.) He challenged the congregation to tithe – the full tithe – for three months. And I felt that that was something we really needed to do.
Now, we’d worked our way up to doing okay with giving most of the time. Not always the ten percent the Bible refers to, and we struggled with staying consistent with it when life happened and we felt like we just couldn’t do it one week or another. But this challenge hit me hard. From a worldly perspective, it’s crazy to even consider giving ten percent of our income each month when we’re still playing catch-up from my stint of unemployment, when we can’t be sure of being in the black until the next paycheck, when we’re working on a loan modification to keep our house (which we prayed about before we bought it, but again, another topic for another day). But God’s economics and doing God’s will often don’t make sense from the world’s perspective. We thought, can we afford to do this? Well, no. But can we afford not to do this, if it’s what God wants us to do? Well, no. So we’ve prayed. We’ve had people bring up the subject of tithing, unbidden, and tell us what a difference it makes to them. And who walks up to the new people in church and brings up the subject of money?! No one, unless it’s God prompting them to do so.
He says to bring in the whole tithe, test Him. We’ve never consistently given our whole tithe. But you can’t outgive God, right? I’ve been over that before, and I’m being challenged to believe it. We’re testing, and right now, that’s just about the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken. And I’m learning that faith isn’t just saying you believe and having your backside in a seat at church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Faith is scary. Faith is hard. Living out your faith often makes people question whether you’re doing the right thing, or whether you’ve just gone right off your rocker. And right now, in the midst of this challenge, I hope my faith is growing just a little bit stronger as we give back to God what is His and wait on Him to meet our needs.