It was 11 PM and pitch dark as I crept up Signal Mountain for the first time. My best friend had warned me that the path to her new Tennessee home was lined with hairpin turns. Although I heeded this warning, I also shrugged it off due to my decent amount of experience driving up and down mountainous terrain. What I expected was not what I drove up to find.
I had never seen a road like this before. It was not filled with hairpin turns; it was filled with literal u-turns. I could not see what I was turning into. There was a line of cars behind me. My entire body was trembling.
I knew that I had to get up this mountain and, whether or not it was wise, I decided to play the blind faith game. I turned my wheel all the way and accelerated just enough to creep around this u-turn of death. I made it. Then, I drove on to find two more of these death traps.
By a sheer miracle, I finally made it to the top of the mountain alive and practically fell out of the car and into my friend's arms to reveal my anything-but-steady hand. She quickly realized that my GPS has taken me up what is known as “The W.” This was not the road with hairpin turns, but rather the route up the mountain with three u-turn-like twists which create the shape of a W.
I assumed a road like this would seem far less terrifying in the daylight and so I was eager to see it the next day (with someone else driving, of course).
The W was even more alarming when you could see the path. The turns were, in fact, so sharp that only one car could make them at a time. I could not believe what I had survived, in the dark, the night before.
Sometimes, I'm thankful God keeps us in the dark.
When I am in the dark, I feel the most out of control and I have the potential to be the most scared, but sometimes, it is simply easier to walk along the path by faith than by sight.
Recently a sweet nun was telling my Walking with Purpose, Opening Your Heart small group a story when she said this simple phrase: “If it is of God, it will happen.”
Her lack of pause led me to believe that she had no idea what a profound statement she had just made and yet, it has redirected all of my thinking. Since that evening, I have been doing all that I can to live with an, If it is of God, it will happen mentality. This, as with most good things, is much easier said than done.
But oh, how freeing it is to trust in God's sovereignty.
In part three of the Opening Your Heart Young Adult series, Steadfast, author Lisa Brenninkmeyer shares a beautiful adaptation of the prayer Be Satisfied by St. Anthony of Padua:
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing...one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you.
You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that's all. (1)
How simple. How beautiful. How hard.
What is God's job? To plan, to give, to create, to wow us with the plan He has for us.
What is our job? To wait.
God's job is detailed and intricate and complex while ours is simple. And yet, we make our part so much more difficult than it ought to be.
I think sometimes God keeps us in the dark for a reason. When I was making my way up the W, I had no choice but to trust. I had to keep plugging forward with no idea what was in front of me.
In life, God often asks us to keep moving forward without knowledge of what lies before us. Often when we say “yes,” we have no real idea what we are saying yes to. We can plan and hope and expect, but in the end, only time will reveal what is truly in our path. Experiencing fulfilled promises builds trust, and thankfully, our God is a God who fulfills promises.
In the words of author Eugene Peterson, “The fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way and then simply embracing Him and what He does.”
Does this mean we sit and do nothing?
No, that is not what waiting is. Waiting in faith is active. We say, “yes.” We trust that if it is of God, it will happen. We embrace what God does. We rest in His love. And we continuously press forward in the path set before us, chasing after the One who loves us.
In thanks for the sovereignty of God,
P.S.: To learn more about trust and surrender, check out Part III of the Opening Your Heart Young Adult series, Steadfast
1) Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Walking with Purpose, Steadfast, 19.
“In your anger, do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26
Scrolling through Facebook and other social media sites, it is clear that we are increasingly feeling free to express our rage, disgust and disappointment however we choose. Regardless of the issue and which side of the fence we land on, emotions are running strong and a lot of blood is boiling. Differing opinions are nothing new. There have always been issues where people don't see eye to eye. But the way in which we are discussing those differences has changed in recent years. And the consequences are anything but good.
It seems we have lost our ability to listen first, to only post something we would be willing to say to someone's face. Distance demonizes, and the social isolation that results from communicating screen-to-screen, instead of face-to-face, is hurting us.
We are relegating character and integrity to the backseat as our emotions are unleashed, and sadly, Christians are not the exceptions to the rule. And all the while, a watching world observes us not practicing self-control becoming unhinged by our hatred and disgust.
When I travel across the country and speak, there is one thing that remains consistent no matter which state I am in. We are worried about passing on the faith to our children. We see that they are disengaged from our faith and are bored by it, and we aren't sure what we can do about it. A 2015 study of Catholic family life found that 68% of Catholics with children under the age of 18 have not given their children any form of religious education. One in three parents did not find it important that their children celebrate their first Communion, and one in four didn't consider it important that their children be confirmed.
In the words of Kathleen Cummings, the director of the Cushwa Center for the study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, “For the first time in history, young Catholic women are more disengaged than their male counterparts. That is a huge, important shift. If you don't have women, you lose the children.”
What part does our lack of practicing self-control with our anger and expression play in this? Studies of Millennials reveal that they greatly value authenticity and are repelled by hypocrisy. Is it possible that they understand enough of our faith to wonder why our religion isn't impacting the way we talk about our enemies or those who are different from us? James 1:26 reminds us, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”
In Colossians 4:6, St. Paul writes, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Salt enhances flavor-it makes food more appealing. In the past, salt was used to preserve meat. When St. Paul compares our words to salt, he's encouraging us to communicate in a way that is winsome, drawing someone closer, preserving unity whenever possible. Being behind a screen or in the midst of an angry group does not give us permission to let graciousness go by the wayside.
Shifts in culture and moral decline unsettle us. Many Christians are feeling increasingly powerless as we see that in a very short span of time, we lost a seat at the table and no one is really listening to us anymore. And it's true. Millennials will not listen when what they hear smacks of judgment, anger, and a sense that we are looking out for our own interests instead of caring for the poor and defenseless.
We might look to politicians to fix the problems we see. But the truth is, it begins with us. The hard work of reaching your hand across the aisle, of being an agent of reconciliation-that begins in our communities, our churches, our neighborhoods, and our homes.
Nowhere in Scripture will you find Jesus exhorting us to defend our rights. But there are countless times when He implores us to lay down our rights for another. We are able to do this because we have our eyes fixed on heaven. We have a sure hope as an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19), and because of this, we don't need to be afraid. God is in control-His purposes and plan will not be thwarted.
As our children watch us engage in a culture very different from the one we grew up in, they do not need to see our fear; they need to see our courage and hope. They do not need to see our rage; they need to see us practicing self-control. They do not need to see our judgment; they need to see our mercy.
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