For those of you who have stayed with this blog all this time, I am happy to announce that this is article #50. Woo hoo! I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to write as well as the comments I have received. I have thoroughly enjoyed developing the skill.
Recently, I had a struggle in my faith, one that had me literally run and drive away from camp one day in tears. I wanted the Lord. I was seeking Him in the Word. I longed for peace from Him. But I had none. I was Peter on the Sea of Galilee. I was trying to walk to the Lord on the water, but my eyes were on the waves. I couldn't get them on Christ, however hard I tried. I wanted to see Him. I wanted to feel Him. I wanted to know He was right there. That is why I say I struggled in my faith - I didn't have faith. I was relying completely on my emotions, my feelings, my knowledge to dictate where my relationship with God was. When all of those brought no confidence of closeness to Christ, everything went down hill. I'm so thankful that God put in on Greg Burton to ask and speak to me concerning my peace and joy in Christ. He saw right to the heart of it. As I left in a fit of sobs, he gently challenged me (my paraphrase), "Don't overthink it. You're reaching for something tangible for your peace. Let it go."
After a time of prayer, reading, listening to music, and going for a run, I felt better. I lifted up the only prayer I could offer - "God, I don't feel you. I don't have the peace and the joy. But like Habakkuk, I am ready to rejoice in You, though there is nothing tangible for me to see, feel, or touch." That is when two incredible things happened.
The first was I was able to return to camp with a weak, but refreshed heart. When things didn't go down as planned, I laughed because I knew God was bigger than the tasks at hand. The peace and joy I was striving to feel came when I ceased to strive to feel it. I felt like I was walking more by faith and less by sight. God started revealing Scripture that made me smack my head - "Why didn't I remember that? Just the verse I needed!" It felt good to let go of reaching for the tangible.
Which brings me to the second. I decided to take a week off of running the song projection at church. I just wanted to go with nothing on my mind at the Lord's Supper and the Scripture teaching than worshiping the Lord. It was at that point that God brought the tangible back to me. He knew that I needed the tangible - we all do. Walking by faith is not easy. When Christ asked us to remember Him and His great act of love for us on the cross, He gave us the stuff of earth to help us - bread and wine. "Take, eat - this is my body. Take, drink - this is my blood which is shed for sin." He gave me something I could see, smell, taste, and enjoy.
J.R.R. Tolkien included an interesting piece of food in The Lord of the Rings (by the way, any good book writer knows how to make a person hungry just by reading). It is called lembas. It is an Elven way bread that was given to the Fellowship to sustain them on their mission:
The lembas has a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats. And yet this way bread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travellers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.
While I do not share all of Tolkien's views on communion, I found this a fitting picture. The bread and the cup at the Lord's Supper are simple tangible reminders, ones that certainly don't suffice for a meal. But they indeed carry a potency. They do feed the will and give strength to endure. But that is their side effect, not their purpose. These small morsels and sips bring to heart and mind both the brutality of sin and the glory of mercy. They were given to remind me that the Lover of my soul is still infatuated with me and longs for me to grow in adoration of Him. As I partake of this holy remembrance feast, I am seated at the table of divine royalty, "where matchless grace of an orphan makes a child of God in full." - Jason Gray. And each time I take it is one less time until I partake of it with my Savior in His very presence, when faith and hope will cast aside and His love becomes more real than the most tangible things I could ever grasp on this earth.
My faith still needs growth, a firm reliance on God when all evidence before my eyes demands fear and doubt instead of trust and rest. So I will continue to close my eyes in prayer, walking by faith instead of sight. I will worship God in spirit and in truth, not simply by feeling or emotion that so often lets me down. And I will remember Him gratefully with the tangible beauty that He provides in the simple bread and cup.
This is not easy, nor is it safe. But it is so, so good.