Messy Faith

messy faith

Messy play, a phrase that fills me with a little dread. Not because I’m so OCD that I can’t handle Sienna getting a little grubby, in fact I know it will be super fun! It’s just I know that the joy of cleaning up the aftermath of her experimentation will be bestowed upon yours truly! I absolutely see the value in it and I understand that it’s an important part of her development. I want her to be free to explore and express herself, but if I’m honest, it would be far easier (and tidier) to pass on this responsibility to someone else, maybe when she starts nursery or visits the grandparents! That said, the benefits to Sienna far outweigh my desire for a tidy house (remind me of this when I’m in the midst of chaos!) These include the fostering of imagination, creativity and curiosity. If you could see the state of my living room on a daily basis, you’d see that unfortunately mess, development and curiosity often go together!

Recently I’ve been re-reading some passages of scripture which I find difficult to wrap my wee finite brain around. Whilst I’m aware that His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55 v 8-9), I don’t feel I can use this scripture as an excuse not to delve deeper into His word and ask some tough questions. Don’t get me wrong, at times this would definitely be a preferable escape route. There are certain things in life it would be easier to brush over because they don’t make sense or they’re uncomfortable to navigate. Maintaining faith through confusing topics, scripture and circumstances can be messy. Even if faith is at the core of how we process things, it’s not always straightforward. My faith is pretty well established in that I’ve been a Christian for many years and have seen God’s undeniable hand at work in my life and that of others. However, I still have enquiries for God regarding personal experiences, His word and theology that I don’t yet have answers to. It would be much more convenient for me if somebody else could tackle them so that I can maintain a nice neat and tidy faith. But if I choose to ignore the deep and difficult conversations I miss out on the opportunity to discover God in new ways. If I remain afraid of the clean-up operation on the other side of my exploration, I may miss out on potential peace and new levels of intimacy with my Heavenly Father. Besides, what really is my faith if it doesn’t involve some risk and curiosity and a little bit of mess? 

The good news is, I’ve realised that God can deal with messy, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that maybe He prefers our mess to our ‘pretence’ that everything is ok. I had a conversation this week with a dear friend whose opinion I love, trust and respect. We were discussing some aspects of scripture that can be difficult to understand and we each have a slightly different viewpoint on at present. What I loved about the conversation is that we were both open to listening to the other’s point of view as our united goal is to better understand God through His word. One thing we both strongly agreed upon is that it’s in the times where we grapple with scripture and life the most that we feel the closest to Jesus. Ultimately we hold onto the promise that the truth will set us free (John 8 v 32) and that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14 v 6). So whilst we don’t hold the keys to full knowledge and understanding we know and trust someone who does. 

A few years ago I came across something called “The knowability of God” by Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) which makes me sound way more intelligent and informed than I actually am. His theory has enabled me to tackle difficult topics of scripture and life from a fresh perspective. In brief summary, Grudem states that we can only know God because He first chose to reveal Himself to us. This means that the very fact that we have an opportunity to know Him is due to our infinite and unfathomable God wanting us to. This encourages me that we don’t need to fear our curiosity about God and His word because He actually wants us to know Him more. That takes the pressure off any guilt or shame we may feel in not having all the answers or feeling uncomfortable with certain texts because God wants to reveal Himself more clearly to us. Grudem also states that whilst we can never fully know God, we can still truly know Him. If He was completely comprehensible, He would cease to be God. Being God indicates that He is greater than man. This, however, doesn’t make Him distant. I could never fully know Rich, my husband because there are parts of his inner man known only by him and God and yet I do truly know and love him. If we don’t give ourselves space and permission to get a bit messy with scripture and God, we miss the opportunity to know Him better.

Jesus is our reminder that God made the first move in wanting us to find Him. He is our clearest example of God’s character, principles and love. This means that we can weigh up everything we don’t understand against our knowledge of Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1 v 24) This reassures me that as long as I continue to walk with Him, there is wisdom to be found. Rich puts it like this, Jesus is the lens which brings into focus a God that would otherwise be too huge to recognise. Despite not being able to fully comprehend God’s magnitude He is both knowable and recognisable through Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God..” (1 Colossians v 15).

So, if you have tough questions, be encouraged that God is able to deal with our messy faith and is, in fact, the best person to take it to. He wants to be known. 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7 v 7 – 8

Child’s Play

CHILD'S PLAY copy

Diving and climbing are the thing of the moment for our nearly 15-month-old Sienna. She’s so curious and adventurous and loves to explore her surroundings. I find she’s always pushing to reach the next thing, she’s not content with being on the ground, for example, she wants to be up high on the settee with the ‘big’ people. Fearless and unaware she then looks out for me or Rich and dives off the end, whether we are ready for it or not!

Also, this past week in swimming she has been diving off a floating mat and into the pool to retrieve a ball. She can’t swim on her own quite yet – she is only one! But assisted by us she dives/gets dunked under the water and glides (with help) towards the ball. I’m in awe of what she can do at such a young age, albeit assisted.

She has absolute trust in us as her parents that we will catch her, pick her up, give her a cuddle if it goes wrong, fix it and let her try again. Even if she stumbles whilst trying something it doesn’t deter her. In fact, she becomes more determined. Even if we tell her not to do something, like touch the bin (you can see this is a recurring issue!), she still re-attempts it! As a parent there’s a challenge for me, how do I encourage her curiosity but train some obedience? I don’t want her to grow up unafraid to try things, but I do want her to understand the importance of my instruction.

Watching her play with Rich is a joy, especially so when she runs at him full pelt and launches herself into his arms (as long as he’s paying attention lol!) She has absolute trust that her Daddy will be there to catch her. It’s no wonder that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I see in Sienna, a faith in her father that I want to recapture for my heavenly Father. An urge and determination to run and leap into His arms with absolute faith that He will catch me. A determination to push to the next level knowing that whatever happens He will be there to help. If I’m slightly off balance, He will redirect me and I never need doubt his leading, even if I may not always like it. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who have faith.

Faith is such a powerful force, and as we have been entrusted to love Sienna it’s our responsibility to help stir this within her. I believe it’s more than just training her in the scriptures and surrounding her by loving people and taking her to Church. It’s helping her to experience it through life, by example, but also through daily practices that allow her to dare to venture into the unknown. It’s in creating a secure base from which she can explore whilst knowing that we are a consistent and constant rock to which she can easily return. As she grows older, the things instilled in the younger years will hopefully form the foundations of her character which will help to inform her decisions and intrinsic navigation system. I pray that faith is one of the loudest voices in her decision-making process. She will discover her own voice, gifts and desires and will need to pursue them unafraid to take risks or of failing.

The older I get and longer I’m a Christian, the more I realise I don’t actually know as much as I previously thought. The further I continue, the more I realise that faith is actually simple and it’s become complicated by religion, processes and procedures. Faith is exciting, it’s adventurous and it takes risks. It believes and trusts in a loving Father whose arms will catch us as we leap towards Him. Some things we are meant to develop in and others we are meant to protect, our faith is one of them. As Christians, it’s a strange dichotomy of faith to mature in Christ and yet remain childlike. So many times I think we confuse maturity with more rules and regulations, with religion, comfort and being sensible.

So how do we mature and steward things well and yet retain a childlike faith? A faith that still believes we can jump and our Father will catch us. A faith that pushes to see the mountains in our life move even with previous failed attempts. We are exhorted to seek wisdom though it cost all we have (Proverbs 4), but I think maybe we have misunderstood wisdom. There’s a beautiful passage of scripture that explains that wisdom is not so much just knowledge acquired or experienced but rather a person to be known.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: 

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1 v 18 – 25

Getting to know Christ though it cost all I have makes sense to me. He is wisdom personified. He stewards everything and everyone well yet remains in the mystery of faith. He trusts His Father, even unto death. The Jews had history and the Greeks had knowledge, yet they became stumbling blocks obstructing them from seeing and experiencing God in the flesh who was in their midst. History and knowledge should have been an advantage, signposts to the Saviour and yet I guess they lost the essence of wonder, the ability to be awed, to lean in and believe in something beyond their minds limit, to have faith.

Gifts and intellect aren’t the enemy and we will endeavour to encourage these in Sienna. However, above all else I will strive to show her Wisdom, to show her Jesus and try and teach her to put her trust and faith in Him. On the journey, I hope also to keep learning from her how I can do the same.