Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.

- Rabindranath Tagore

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

That stupid chair

First, I am ecstatic to tell you all that I will be moving by the end of this month. Things did not work out in time for me to get a roommate. She had to find a different place so she could start her job this past weekend. I decided to look for a different solution, and was able to get out of my lease to be housemates with ZACH DAVY. Sorry for the all caps. I'm kinda stoked out of my mind for this next stage of  my life. He lives in his brother's house up in Benson, and I will be moving in over the next few weeks. I remember the month of May in 2010 when I was considering transferring to UNL to live in the "A-street House" (where quite a few of my closest friends all lived together) and how much I realized I missed my friends. I've realized that living in Omaha and being friends is not the same as living in Norfolk and being friends. It is much harder to connect when you live in a city. I anticipate that changing if Zach and I are housemates. I mean when--when we are housemates. This is a blessing from God.


Some of you might be familiar with the analogy of faith being compared to the act of sitting in a chair. In case you are not: I remember being told multiple times in my youth from church group leaders and the like that acting in faith is the same thing as when you sit in a chair. When you sit in a chair, you trust that it is going to hold your weight and that you are not going to hit the floor instead. So sitting in the chair is an act of faith. I think that this analogy while strictly speaking is true, falls so far from the truth of reality that it should be changed.

I think that if we want to use a chair in our analogy we must first make it similar to our experience with living in faith. My experience is not one where every time I pray I am answered. My experience is one where I've done things in faith, but was dead wrong and fell flat on my face. God has never made his ways so clear to me that I can predict how things will turn out. The analogy of the chair in its original form fails to explain that sitting in a chair is not even something we think about. You and I have sat in so many chairs that it has moved from cognitive to instinctual. We have been conditioned to trust the stupid chair, because for thousands of "sits" it has done the exact same thing, no surprises, no unexpected falls. If you've ever missed a chair, or had it fold in on you, it is something that jolts you out of this instinctual thinking. But, not for long, your trust in the chair will move back into the conditioned state after a few thousand more "sits." So with that I would like to smash our chair, literally, in our figurative analogy. So take this chair whose structural integrity is now gone. Would you dare sit in it?  Now say I repair it to the best of my ability and succeed in making it look like the chair we are used to, would you throw your weight onto it on the first try? Could you know if I just used some glue and focused on the cosmetic aspects or if I put in time to brace it where it required such?

To me this second contemplative approach to the "sitting" is so much more like my experience with faith. I hope that I have built my understanding and faith on a solid foundation, but the way it plays out in my life shows that I often miss the truth at certain points and apparently focus more on a cosmetic aspect than a structural one. I do not think that we should stop sitting in the chair and finding the weaknesses, sometimes by crashing through it to the floor. I think this verse might apply here:

Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2-4 English Standard Version

So with that, imagine you are given a bunch of pieces of wood and are charged with building a chair. You are the one who tests it, you are the one who hits the floor when its not got the proper steadfastness. When you have finished and you know its solid, do you think you will ever doubt that it will hold your weight?

The problem I think we've come to is that many, many Christians are living not in faith, but on knowledge alone. We are not willing to sit in any chair that is not given to us from a trustworthy source--we don't actually step out in faith, we do the sure things. We don't embrace the falls, we fear them.

For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.
- Proverbs 24:16 Amplified Bible

A little more contemporary reference, Thomas Wayne, the father of Bruce Wayne (Batman), told him this: "And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." - Batman Begins

May you see faith being more about picking yourself up, or sometimes letting God pick you up, than about not falling. And, may you build true strength of faith.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible

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