"Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23 (NIV).
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I’ve heard all of my life that if I’d only believe, my faith could move mountains. But how do you move mountains when you’re tripping over pebbles? The truth of the situation is, at least for me in my experience, that sometimes the big faith comes easily while the little things cause such faithless uncertainty.
Let me explain. You see it's never really been the demons that frightened me. It's not been death and disease that have staggered me. I've never had trouble getting out of the boat and walking on water. But sometimes it seems like I sure can't get out of my own head. I’m learning that the bold proclamations of faith can sometimes come too easily. Unfortunately, it's the honest confessions of confusion and struggle that we don't often share that come with such difficulty. What do I mean?
We proclaim, “I am more than a conqueror through Christ,” when we really want to say, “It seems like this struggle will never end.” We lift our chin and stick out our chest and say with confidence that, “No weapon fashioned against us shall prosper!” when the truth is we want to weep and say, “I don't think I can take even one more blow.” We sing “Love Lifted Me” while we are really drowning. We rejoice and know that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” all the while struggling because life is kicking us in the teeth right now.
I’m learning something about the duality of our condition as believers. We are flesh and spirit. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the way we were created by a tender and loving God who is also just a bit wiser than any of us are in this life. We are flesh and we are spirit – together at the same time. And out of that duality often flows two realities.
He's my healer - I know that to be true. But I'm also diabetic - I know that to be just as true. He rescued me but I sure am lost right now. Yes, I'm a citizen of heaven but I'm also living in a hell on earth - I'm meant for the palace but right now I'm stuck in the reality of the pig-pen-like pit. All too often we are stuck functioning in only one reality and the ignored truth of the other reality becomes a pebble that we keep tripping over.
The sad thing is that the duality of our reality often makes us wear a mask. We are “Composed Christian” on the outside and “Broken Believer” on the inside. The Christian community around us, our friends and our family, often make us feel as if we must be Super Christian at all times and so we hide the truth of the other reality that we all carry with us at all times. We rarely are faster than a speeding bullet. Hardly ever are we more powerful than a locomotive. And I don’t know that we will ever leap tall buildings in a single bound.
So, what’s the answer? How do we move mountains and pebbles at the same time? First, we have to take the masks off. That’s the single most frightening part to many of us. If we take off our masks people might actually see who we really are and they might judge us, ridicule us, or reject us. It’s overwhelmingly intimidating but we cannot truly walk in faith in both spirit AND flesh until we drop our guard, bring down the walls, and take off our masks.
The next step is simple. We embrace the duality of our reality. Please understand that this isn’t about the unstable double-minded ways of the man in the book of James (we’re not talking about temptation and sinful things). It’s about accepting the fact that God chose to allow us to live this way. We aren’t the first faith-filled people to have to face the duality of our reality. Take a look at the book of Psalms. Look past the poetry and the melody. Did you know that only about 30 percent of the Psalms are songs and writings about praise, worship, and thanksgiving? What about the other 70 percent? Those are what we call songs of lament. They are words written by hearts who were worshipping through their wounds; words written by hearts lost in the wilderness of life. They embraced the duality of their reality. If you don’t believe me take the time to read Psalms 22.
The last thing that I think we need to do is choose which reality will be the one that defines us. I’m convinced that we must remove our masks and live somewhat honestly and transparently (even if it’s only with those closest to us). I’m equally certain that we must embrace the duality of our reality – that we are both spirit and flesh – and find balance and beauty in that duality. But I’m also confident that we must decide which truth will be the truth that is our testimony. Will you worship in your wounded wilderness or will your wounded wilderness rob you of your worship?
Lest you think my premise is silly and lacking in Biblical foundation, let me share with you the words of the Apostle Paul, a man who continually wrestled with the duality of his reality, in II Corinthians 12. “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So how do you move mountains when you are tripping over pebbles? Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you can’t. That’s one reality. But the other reality is pretty sweet; you know Someone who can. And so let yourself off the hook. Cut yourself some slack. Embrace the duality of your reality and move on.