Friday, January 29, 2010

Campfires, a Mustard Seed and My Mountain

One of the most significant spiritual locations for me is up in the Catskill Mountains. Each year, from 4th grade through when I graduated high school, I'd head up there with some friends to a little, rustic camp in the middle of nowhere. There were holes in the walls, bugs in the bathrooms and it was paradise.

My favorite part of each day was probably the campfire. The day was coming to a close, we were tired from hiking or playing, doing skits, eating completely non-nutritious meals and the exhausting vigor that comes from feeling some semblance of freedom from everyday life. We'd sit in the absolute pitch dark, one of the perks of being nowhere near civilization, and just watch the fire burn. I've come to believe that a campfire is one of the easiest places to actually experience true silence and, consequently, hear from God.

The summer after 6th grade, I was enjoying such a moment of peace after wrestling all week with what I actually believed. Being a perfectionist, I wondered if I'd ever get it right, this faith thing. I still had doubts, I still didn't seem to know enough; I put a lot of pressure on myself, even at 11. But that night, as I was wrestling with my imperfect faith, a man got up and spoke about a tiny little mustard seed. This little passage in the bible where Jesus promised that even with faith that tiny we could move mountains. I remember thinking to myself "Well, geez, even I have faith THAT tiny. I guess that's all He's asking for." Since then, my journey with God has often been characterized by this tendency toward perfectionism and away from grace and, ironically, with a faith that struggles to believe in the moving of mountains.

A good friend recently challenged me to step back from the places I was hurting and waiting in and ask these questions of God: "Where are You taking me?" and "What part of Your heart are You showing me in this waiting?" I've done that, faithfully, for about a month now. The answer has not been what I wanted or even expected. He has been making it clear to me that He is planning on taking me to a whole new understanding of the miraculous. He is cultivating in me a holy and miraculous expectation of His power and goodness and intent to change the world around me. He's asking me to pray anew for something that in my heart I've given up on: the radical transformation and redemption of my earthly father.

I don't know what this is going to look like. I've prayed so many times for my dad that I know there's fear in my heart that I'll be disappointed yet again. But I know that I've been asked to do something and the only thing I've been promised in return is that I'll get to know the heart of my Heavenly Father better in the process. This is my mountain - my relationship with my father represents years of pain and confusion and frustration. To see him changed, to see our family's world changed, would truly be the miraculous moving of a seemingly unmovable thing.

So, I'm going for it. I don't know why this is what I'm supposed to do now and, thankfully, I don't feel the pressure to know. In the meantime, I've given those other things I've been focused on into the hands of faithful friends who I'm certain will bear them for me. Even in the hours since doing so, I've felt a subtle but distinct lessening of anxiety.

However God chooses to show up in this new moment of faith, I am certain of this; that He will show up, that He's faithful to continue His work and that in those moments where I'm tempted to believe He's not there, those are the times when He is working so deeply that soul transformation is happening and I just have to hold on and wait to see the miraculous reality.

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