Sometimes I wonder if God might decide one day to give up on me.
I declare myself a disciple of Jesus, yet sometimes it feels as if I’m not studying hard enough. I mean, is there a supplemental reading list I missed?
Take for instance this past week when I went out on some errands. I had anticipated that there might be some waiting time, so I brought along a book by Philip Gulley called, “If God is Love.” It’s a radical book, but I was feeling up to the challenge.
But the biggest challenge was yet to come.
My first stop was the dog groomer. I was hoping the stop would be quick, but when the groomer couldn’t find my records, I felt my face begin to redden. I was hoping she’d not notice my book about God’s love, so I turned the book face down as I helped her search for my record.
From there I went to get a haircut in a place that always seems to require my name and phone number. Ignoring my reluctance to share personal information, the woman persisted -- this despite the scowl forming on my face. Surely Gulley had something to say about annoying barbers, maybe I hadn’t got to that chapter yet.
Since impatience tends to make me hungry, I went to my favorite sandwich store and ordered a Ruben. As the clerk asked me for the third time how I wanted my sandwich made, I could feel my teeth grind as I slowly slid the book down my side of the bar.
(Can’t you just feel the love in my column today?)
Finally after dispensing with all these “annoying” people, I began to read my book my god-is-love book. Hoping to balance the book on my knee and keep it clean of sandwich dressing, I began to notice how I’d failed to balance faith. The impatience was returning, but this time much with myself. I felt my soul cringe, my conscience grind, and my stomach curl.
Forget the book; I put it down. God was doing a little bit of writing on my conscience. Gulley’s a Quaker and I think Quakers call this feeling being moved by the Spirit.
It was a small tug at first and then it became more like a giant sucking sound -- the swish of conflict I often feel when faith and practice collide. And, now, for the umpteen-millionth time, I was being presented a challenge to live out my faith in such way that makes a difference to someone besides myself.
The truth is that living faith is a pretty easy practice when we limit it to the religious darlings of worship, study and prayer.
But most of us want to know how life works once you step outside the house of worship – say, into the world of dirty dogs, bad haircuts and sloppy sandwiches. This is the place where the corned beef hits the rye and things can get a little dicey.
As most of us try to practice our faith, most of us will feel like giving up. The voices tell us, “Give up because you’ll never measure up.” Even as a minister who is supposed to teach faith, I sometimes feel like belittling my successes with the old adage, “those who can, do; those who can't teach."
Yes, there is such a big distinction between how I act sometimes and how I know I should act. Does that make me a hypocrite? At times.
But other times, (not so much the ones described above, but yet again, maybe those even more than some) I know that God never gives up on me and will never let me go. It’s those times that I know that God holds me for a purpose and with each scrape, fall and failure, I’ll be shaped into something that comes closer each day to the image I was created in.