Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Utter Aloneness of Exercised Faith

There is an aloneness to faith that is not often mentioned when great faith is discussed. It's understandable that we typically focus on the more victorious aspects of faith -- the ones that involve the payoff of faith put into action. But the resolutions, the victories, and the happy endings of faith are only one part of the story (usually the end). Let the record show that faith, if it is truly acted upon, has another dimension that involves feelings of utter aloneness.

This is because exercised faith takes you into regions no other human being can share with you. Only God can be with you there, though even He may seem utterly absent at times. In his classic book The Road Less Traveled, author Scott Peck speaks of this aloneness in his chapter on Grace. He talks about it in terms of the aloneness of leadership but, of course, leaders are by definition people who exercise their faith.

Dr. Peck cautions those who would pursue deeper spiritual development to prepare for the inevitable aloneness that goes with achieving that goal. He speaks of how Jesus chould not bring even His closest followers beyond a certain point as He moved into those place His faith and insight led Him. He hints that this aloneness (which he differentiates from loneliness) would be unbearable but for the very grace of God itself.

My recent steps of faith have renewed my own acquaintance with the broader aspects of faith's dimensions. Along with the exhiliration and adventure I have felt as I have stepped out into my own new calling, I have also known persistent feelings of deep aloneness at a level I have not felt for some time. And, since the flip side of faith is doubt, I have known that too. I am stunned by how quickly these doubts can pop up and then disappear again -- literally like the flip of a coin. At such times I suddenly doubt myself, doubt my abilities, doubt my choices, doubt my future, doubt my obedience to God itself. It's not so much that I question if I have done the right thing, it is more that I question whether I have done the right thing in the right way.

It is at such times that I feel the utter aloneness of exercised faith. I take comfort from seeing that my Bible heroes know this turf. Abram and Sarai, Joseph and Jeremiah, Elijah and David and Jesus and Paul -- all of them could testify to faith's shadow side as easily as they could praise its shining brightness. Yet even though I know that I am (as the old hymn says) "trodding where the saints have trod", I find this path to be unbearable at times. Thank God He gives a greater grace for, without it, there could be no path at all.

1 comment:

Patti L. said...

Hi Bill,
Faith to take the step, and grace to step on solid ground!
Hey, we love "Modern Times"
"As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, a hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone."

Patti is finally a Dylan fan! Grace for Dylan too!
Love and peace,