The (Un)Inspiring Story of Faith

I want to write an inspiring post about faith.

I want to sit here and type out the details of my story, to flesh out all of the unpredictable joys, all of the startling downturns and even the mundane details. I want to untangle each bump and every curve to show you how it was all moving in the same direction.

I want to tell you a story like the last 5 minutes of a sitcom, where everything is unraveled and suddenly put back together. One where everything works out in the end. I want to walk with you through the labyrinth of my struggles and pain, leading you from the maze of doubt into the bright light of certitude.

I want to show you how my faith sustained me through it all because I always trusted that God would work it out in the end.

Because that’s Joseph’s story, isn’t it? A tale filled with heartache and betrayal and danger and downfall. Sold into slavery by his own brothers. Tempted and falsely accused of attempted rape. Wrongly imprisoned and forgotten to rot in jail.

But Joseph had faith.

So the end of his story must have been unsurprising to him. The way he rose to power and saved his family from famine. Because Joseph had this strong faith that sustained him through a life of one disappointment after another. He had faith, so it worked out in the end.

I cannot tell you how many times I heard that story as a child in Sunday school or VBS or church camp. I was told this is what faith looked like. It seemed to come so easy to Joseph, whether in a deep well or dark prison.

I want my story to look like Joseph’s. But that is not my story.

Instead mine looks much more like those 12 guys who followed Jesus around for 3 years. Which sounds kind of conceited when you compare yourself to an apostle, right? But look closer. Sean Palmer described them so well in a post on his blog yesterday: (And if you’re not familiar with Sean, I encourage you to look around his blog a bit. He has a lot of great things to say that challenge me often.)

They were constantly in disbelief. They repeatedly asked questions which had already been answered. They were amazed when storms were calmed and thousands were fed. The disciples were consistently dumbfound by the faithfulness of God. They weren’t fired up when Jesus welcomed people they had been taught to dislike. When they weren’t being astonished, they were fouling things up. For goodness sake, even though they had been raised in synagogue, the disciples didn’t even know how to pray. They had to ask! Yet through it all, they were Jesus’ disciples…and they were called Jesus’ disciples.

These guys had the front row center seats to the Jesus show and still had questions and doubts and struggles and missteps. Their faith journey did not look easy or clean. Instead it looked like a winding road filled with potholes.

Yeah, that looks much more like my faith than the Joseph story.

Because my faith does not look easy or clean. I think about things way too much. When something bad happens, I whine and complain and mope. I take things apart in my mind and attempt to put them back together in a way that can find meaning in it all. I feel like I trip more than I run the race.

Doubt may not regularly drive the bus, but he’s often riding shotgun.

And to be fair, we’re not given the daily record of Joseph’s journey, either. We hold him up as a paragon of faith, but not because it was came easily to him. The fact is, we have no idea how he felt in that well or behind those prison bars.

keep-goingWhat we do know about Joseph is the same thing we see in those 12 apostles: They kept going. They kept walking the road whether they were pushed down or tripped on their own. They kept following, kept moving forward.

So maybe I don’t have the story I want to tell. All of my tangles have not been unraveled. I can’t look back and dissect every detail and show you exactly what God was — or still is — doing with every one.

My story is still awkward and messy.

But today I will make the choice to keep going. I will choose to follow this Jesus that seems to have the words of life. Because maybe that’s what faith really looks like. It may not be easy or clean, but it keeps going forward.

It’s not the story I want, but it’s the story I have.

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