I have come to understand that sometimes we experience good things in our lives because we make them happen — we dream and toil, persist and sacrifice until our ideas become reality. Other times wonderful opportunities and people, conversations and lessons seem to drop into our laps. I find these circumstances some of the most satisfying, for they are experiences filled with wonder and surprise. They are like manna from heaven.
That was exactly my experience 13 years ago when the idea of writing Faithful Living was first introduced to me.
I wish I could say that I determined I would become a columnist and worked like a mad woman to make that happen. But the truth of the matter is this: the opportunity dropped into my lap in a way I could never have imagined.
The news first came by way of a friend who is unrelated to the newspaper in any way. In fact, he is a father, husband and missionary — a very unlikely bearer of such news except for this fact: Dick understands the deep and sometimes mysterious ways of faith because he has lived on the edge most of his life. He has boldly proclaimed his love for God and taken that message of love and faithfulness to far-off lands. When comfort and convention were not available, Dick learned to lean on God through prayer. In turn, he has learned to listen. What he is able to hear and understand from God can be truly amazing.
Our lives intertwined the morning a unique idea came to him as he readied for the day. The idea? That I would write a column about my experiences with faith. Being a good friend, a man of great faith, and recognizing over the years that remote ideas unrelated to his life are often a gift from a heavenly sender, he made a call to me and shared the news.
“Gear up,” he said, “It’s time to write about faith!”
I was amazed, even intrigued, but skeptical. There was already a religion column offered by the newspaper and I was busy raising three small children. When would I find the time to pen a weekly column? And why me? I was a published writer, but not a pastor.
Two weeks later I received a call from a section editor at the newspaper. Other job interests had suddenly pulled the religion columnist in another direction. Would I consider writing a column that describes my weekly adventures with faith? They needed to line up a columnist — and fast!
I had no idea how I would fashion a column concept so quickly, but in minutes I typed the words “Faithful Living” atop my computer screen and began writing my first column.
I chose to tell the story of my Oklahoma grandparents and a summer afternoon in 1969 when we holed up in a walk-in cellar to avoid a quickly approaching tornado. While Grandpa topped his head with an old ‘sal wester and scooped up an ample portion of blackberry cobbler to bring into the cellar, my grandmother slapped pesky mosquitoes away from my legs in the dim light and prayed over us. Grandma understood that she could not change what was happening to us, but she enjoyed full control over her spiritual response. She was faithfulness in action.
It is this picture of pure, simple faith that fills my heart this week as I consider what it means to live in faithfulness.
The circumstances of my life have changed dramatically in 13 years: my children are young adults, both of my grandparents and their second son, my dad, have all passed on. And even though I miss them terribly and at moments grieve deeply and profoundly for the void present in my life because they are gone, I am thankful for the legacies they leave and memories of prayers uttered in their presence. It is when I allow my tears to flow and the sorrow of my heart to pour out in prayer that I experience a great soothing of my fears and a reduction in my pain. Faithfulness provides assurance that death is only a momentary parting.
Faithfulness also involves dying: dying to self. Dying to the idea that we control our lives. Faithfulness acknowledges that there are times when life drops into our laps enormous opportunities to live boldly, even when there is fear and surprise and pain. Such faith overrides the gifts of science and technology and offers us opportunities to become living examples of faith — to honor God and encourage others.