The year 1995 was interesting for a lot of reasons. The DOW passed the 5,000 mark for the first time. The unloved 55mph speed limit expired (finally). The Galileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter. The Oklahoma City Bombing was big and tragic news. I moved my family to Tennessee. And Jars of Clay released their self-titled debut album.
It is that last item that got to me to pondering last night, as I spun the record in my music room. The lyrics to Like a Child became a meditative force for me, and, like all good music, it caused me to think beyond what I was hearing, taking me into the realm of self-examination.
They say… that I can move the mountains
If you have attended church more than once or twice, you have heard the mustard seed analogy used in a sermon. The passage comes from Matthew 17:20, where Jesus tells the disciples that if they had a tiny amount of faith, they could move a mountain. I don’t think He was chastising Matthew, Mark, John, and the others so much as He was describing what power was available outside their own thinking.
That is a pretty big claim, moving mountains, and it got me to thinking about what caused me to sell a home we loved, leave a good paying job, pack up our kids, and move to a little town in Tennessee. What was I thinking? No money, no job, nothing but a tiny grain of faith. I did not move a mountain, but I certainly moved to one. I can see Montlake Mountain, while at only 1729 feet maybe not very mountainous, but a mountain nonetheless, out of the window of my office right now, bathed in the flaming glory of the changing leaves. We survived the move, grew and prospered, and now are happily retired in this little piece of Heaven on Earth. All that from a voice in my head and faith in my heart that moving was our next step as a family.
They say… that I can walk on water
We put a pool in the ground a few years back. I will tell you upfront it was not my idea. I do not really like the water – I have never been comfortable in it. It was not until my later years that I understood why. You see, I’m a sinker, not a floater. There is sound science on the subject, having to do with muscle density and body type, but the bottom line for me is I just barely keep my head above the surface. That makes water my natural enemy – it is out to kill me.
The walk-on-water story comes from Matthew 14, when Peter saw Jesus walking across the waves and said “Hey, I want to do that!” to which Jesus replied, “Come on in – the water is fine!” (I am paraphrasing, of course). Peter did great, until he didn’t. You see, his faith was overcome by his fear. So he could walk on water – he just had – but then he couldn’t.
I am not comparing myself with such giants of the faith, but sitting out back for morning cuppa with my lovely wife (the instigator of the whole pool idea) on the swing, enjoying the calm stillness of the (closed for the winter) pool, I feel immense pleasure and intense calm. I eagerly await the spring, because my displeasure with water has been replaced by the times of serene joy I have enjoyed since we dug that hole.
They say… that love can heal the broken
I have been seriously sick more than a couple times in my life. I am always encouraged when I see my memories on Facebook when I was having surgery or recovering from a serious illness. Encouraged because of the sheer volume of people who take the time to offer prayers and words of faith. I did the math one time and because of shares, friends telling friends, it is entirely possible that as many as a 192,034 were praying for me at my worst time (see: Thoughts and Prayers? Yes, Please! – Life On Purpose (life-on-purpose.blog) for the whole scoop). There is good science on the subject, too, whether faith is in your wheelhouse or not.
The idea is brought to life in Matthew chapter 9, when a woman with an issue of blood told herself if she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment she would be healed. She did, and she was. Jesus put it succinctly – “Be of good cheer, your faith has made you well.”
A single grain of faith is powerful, but it will not make a jar of mustard. That requires a heaping scoop of seeds. Now there’s some food for thought.
They say… that hope can make you see
I have known many people, during my pilgrimage on this old rock, who have been made captive by various bondages. Lots of folks cannot unchain the burdens of the past, dragging their whole weighty life behind them. Others suffer from debilitating addictions, sometimes coming close to freedom, only to fall under the weight of the chain reaction of circumstances. Still others labor under the delusion that they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or rich enough to accomplish their life dreams, let alone get through the day. I’m talking to you. And I’m talking to me.
Jesus spent a lot of time contending with the religious leaders of His day, and in John 8 he lays out a powerful reality. He said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” But what is truth? He also said “I am the way, the truth and the life” so His claim is that He is the truth. Finally, to hammer the nail home, He proclaims “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
That all may read like a lot of religious gobbledygook, but it is instead a statement of real faith, unrestrained by the traditions of men, contained in the tiny seed of faith and brought to life by the hope of a better life. Freedom, from pain, from suffering, from addictions, from the past.
They say… that faith can find a savior
My dad always told me there were no atheists in foxholes. He knew because he had been in the coldest of foxholes, in Korea, during that forgotten war. He never offered up much more about his time at war, other than he did not like being shot at, but that episode helped frame his life going forward. Dad knew there were forces bigger than himself, and he knew it would take more than the resources he owned to save himself. More importantly, he knew that connecting with the Creator was not only a life endeavor, but salvation itself.
Because that’s what faith is – it is what propels the journey of discovery, of finding eternity in our hearts, of striving to reach higher, love deeper, give more intensely, to be all that we can be. There is a lot of religion available, libraries of theology, untold hours of YouTube videos on the subject. But I love how the Apostle Paul, a well-educated man of many words sums it up:
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” Philippians 3:10
That I may know Him. That is the goal of life, that is the end of the journey, that is the point of the whole thing.
My dad lived a good life, if a bit short, but at the end, after working hard his whole life, after a good marriage and raising three kids, after spending his retirement doing good for others, he summed it up by saying that all he desired was to know the Christ and be known by Him.
I often hear people say “They say” as if some inimitable and all-powerful “they” is a source. We all know in the age of the internet that “they” say a lot of things that are misguided, untruthful, downright false. Sometimes they are so wrong.
But sometimes they are oh-so-right.
The song that brought these ideas to the surface lasted only four minutes and thirty-five seconds. But the lessons are from a lifetime, the episodes from an ongoing journey, the truths from a life of seeking. I often see in my mind’s eye a vision of an old man, a Gandalfian wizard, ancient and grizzled and wizened by experience. But in reality, life is better lived with the heart wide open, with the faith like a child.
At least, that’s what they say.