Out of Sorts: Happily Ever After and Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

I know I said I would write about vocation this week, but the topic seemed big enough to explore for several weeks. So that is coming. Until then, you can revisit my post where I linked some resources. Between now and the series I am going to make Allen read them all whether or not he has the desire or time. Join him.

I recently heard an amazing talk about the time between the Resurrection of Christ and Pentecost (which in the liturgical calendar is where we sit now). The main idea of the talk is similar to Sarah’s main thesis: faith is constantly in motion.

This particular talk focused in on the mixed experiences of the disciples after Easter. We often want the Resurrection story to be a fairy tale. The climactic scene of the cross happens and we assume all is lost, but then Jesus rises from the dead and we all live happily ever after.

But it doesn’t quite work like that. If you skip through the post resurrection stories here’s what you find happening to the disciples:

Some believe
and some doubt.
They are puzzled and terrified.
Their friends think they are crazy.
They don’t recognize Jesus.
When they do recognize Jesus, he typically vanishes.

happily-ever-after-logoTo me, that seems like a list of confusing and difficult things more than happily ever after.

I think we have too often been handed a “happily ever after” version of faith. Faith, conversion, salvation, rebirth, etc. are often spoken of as if they are “one-and-done” events.

You either have faith or you don’t. You are reborn or you are not. Faith is static not dynamic. It is or it isn’t.

But Sarah’s book is a beautiful reminder that true faith grows, shifts, moves, journeys, and evolves. Faith is something which is beautifully dynamic, although the rhythms it takes to do so can be difficult.

Sarah uses the imagery in her final benediction of a pilgrimage and a journey through the wilderness. I love this image of faith.

One of my favorite kinds of fiction is where people are on long journeys, camping, surviving, questing, adventuring. These stories speak to my soul. Not because I am a camping outdoorsy type (I am not, I hate it) but because it speaks to my faith.

darktowerart3112012One of my favorite journey/quest stories is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Coming soon to a theater near you. At the end of the book he says this: I end stories for the same reason I put on pants when I leave the house – society dictates that I do so. For him, the end of the story is never the point. It is the journey.

In this tale, we actually find out that when the end of the quest blinds us to what is happening on the journey, we miss the most important things in life. On the journey we discover new people, have interesting adventures. Those are the things that matter, not the place we “arrive.”

If faith is just something we are trying to arrive at, we miss all God really wants for us in the journey.

But the journey is often one of wilderness. It doesn’t divide up into neat categories. Moving, shifting, evolving faith simply means we are tied into the pattern of death and resurrection.

Nature itself obeys the rhythms of death and resurrection. Things begin to die in the fall, stay in death in the winter, resurrect in spring, and thrive in summer.

Yet have you ever noticed how spring takes awhile to actually arrive? In Oklahoma we can have a freeze overnight and 85 degree weather the next day. March 20th doesn’t just hit and we are at spring.

We are continually in process, shifting, moving, growing, sorting, evolving and returning.

On the one hand, this could seem frustrating. We know we will always have the confusion and difficult stuff to work on. But on the other hand….

12351-Jesus_Hands_Resurrected.1200w.tnAfter many different encounters and lots of confusion, Jesus finally shows up with all of the people who have been trying make sense of his Resurrection. Some have seen him, some have not. Some believe. Some doubt. But now they are all in one room.

And Jesus has but one word:

Peace.

Amidst all the confusion and mixed reactions, Jesus shows up and speaks peace. There still may be some confusion, doubt, and difficulty. But we can have peace because Jesus is in all of it.

As we end this beautiful and inspirational book I am glad we don’t end with happily ever after. I am glad we are reminded that faith is always moving and it is beautiful and complex and mysterious and frustrating and amazing. And while we may feel crazy we trust that it is good and wonderful.

And in the midst of it all we can have peace. And we are not alone.

Which is my earnest prayer for this blog. And the gift I have received from Sarah’s book.

May we all have the grace and peace of God as we move forward in the journey.

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