Faith is an ongoing orientation of the soul towards God. –Brian Zahnd
It was the beginning of December and I was getting the boys ready to go pick out our Christmas tree. My husband called and said he was leaving the office and we would meet him at the tree lot down the road. Of course we were all looking forward to this special time together. There was a new carton of egg nog in the fridge and an unopened box of Pot of Gold chocolates waiting for our return.
But instead of enjoying this moment do you know what I was doing minutes before we left? Having a screaming match with my 5 year old, which ended in tears and slammed doors. We showed up at the tree lot cranky and out of sorts. I couldn’t have been more disappointed in myself for not walking away before our words escalated. Really? You’re yelling at your 5 year old right before you go pick out a Christmas tree together? Shame burned red hot inside of me.
One of the things I find most frustrating in my faith journey is the feeling that not much has changed. I know my faith is deeper and richer than it has ever been, and yet day to day I don’t feel entirely different. I find myself making the same mistakes I made a year ago, even 10 years ago in some cases. I start to wonder if God has done anything lasting in me at all.
Perhaps you’ve been here before?
I was reading in Ephesians this week, and was moved by this verse:
Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. – Ephesians 3:23
More specifically, the first three words: Let the Spirit.
It doesn’t say “YOU need to renew your thoughts and attitudes”, or else I would be a hopeless case. My job is to let the spirit. This is not a one-time fix where I pray a prayer and suddenly become a perfect human being. I need to come back to this place, where I let the Spirit work in me, again and again. It makes sense why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “But to us who are being saved…” We are being saved. We are in repair. We are becoming more and more like the images of God we were created to be. This faith journey is a process.
Each moment, whether I am waking up or exercising, sipping my coffee or comforting a friend, after each success and each failure, I have the opportunity to turn towards God and say “Be the King of my heart again. Be the Lord of my life.” And I know the Spirit has at least done this much in me, because a few years ago I certainly wasn’t praying those words. My orientation was inwards, towards myself. But now I pray those words with sincere longing, which means God is changing the orientation of my soul. Faith itself is a gift from Him, evidence of His hand at work in me.
Following Jesus is a struggle and it always will be. Even King David — “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13,14, Acts 13:22) — found himself committing adultery and murder. But his faith was not taken away, God was still at work calling David back to himself. And David let the Spirit draw him back to the Father in repentance. Now we have the beautiful words of Psalm 51 to guide us when we are lost in our own mistakes.
Temptations won’t go away in this lifetime and neither will my tendency to mess up. But when temptations and distractions are swooping in all around me, the Holy Spirit will be present. My obedience to His gentle tugs and quiet whispers will be evidence of God alive and active in my life.