The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Jesus spent enough time on this planet wearing our “earth school” uniform of flesh and bone to know what we are each up against as human beings. He understood that in order to relish the beautiful, endure the heartbreak and prevail nobly here on earth we would need a solid, unmoveable faith. Jesus said, “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, will be called a wise soul. See the one who built his or her house on rock. The rains came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house, and it did not fall for it was founded on rock. Build it on sand and great will be the fall.”
If I am honest, I struggle with the capacity of my faith. Sometimes it feels as fragile as sand, the next, I’m surprised by it’s fortitude.
Five years ago, my husband and I embarked on our first building project for a house in which to raise our big family. Two years prior, Nashville experienced the great 100-year flood that devastated our community. We personally experienced a major mudslide on our property. The powers-that-be confided that to build a home to withstand another 100-year flood would require significant expense, extra building time, and serious labor to drill to bedrock with steel rods to secure the foundation of our house. I’ll never forget the engineer saying, “The foundation of your house could hold a skyscraper, and not move an inch.”
God gives us free reign to daily build our own lives. We choose the foundation that supports the soul. Sand or steel rods drilled into bedrock? Many are quick, frugal and dismiss the Engineer’s advice. But we gain whatever we invest in life. No one can escape the rains and the floods of life’s circumstances. Usually these diversions come when we least expect them, and they have the power to rock our foundations and challenge everything we believe to be true.
So what does the divine Engineer recommend for building an authentic and resilient faith?
First, trust God to be in charge of the cosmic “life project,” confident there is a force of good working on our behalf. Relinquish control (the irony is we never had control in the first place) and rely on God in uncertainty and heartbreak. Have faith in the eternal plan for creation–ever-evolving, wicked creative and love bent. Approach humbly the creator of the universe, the Almighty, yet simultaneously so intimate, choosing to count every hair on our heads, privy to our most secret thoughts. The eternal Oneness is as close as our heartbeat and as near as our breath during our tenure here and promises to take our hand at the final curtain closing. Rest in the truth that God is in love with us and because of this unmitigated love God is relentless in our redemption. Find peace in the eternal laws of the universe evidenced in Nature and in the personage of Jesus. With every loss, there will be a resurrection. And finally, accept the reality that all we have for certain on this side of heaven is God and love. Nothing else.
Second, although the world tells us otherwise, we are not our looks, our age, our intellect, our portfolio, our biography, our failures or successes. These are fleeting suggestions of who we are. We are souls sojourning in a body with our days already counted in the Book of Life. The soul is the part of us that is good and luminous, hopes, loves unto sacrifice and knows intimately the silhouette of God. It remembers wherefore it came and is confident in God’s travel arrangements for a hereafter. The soul is the motherboard of our being, afforded a pre-knowledge of God’s dream for each unique life. The soul has supernatural powers that trump worldliness, intellect, bodily strength and connection with the secular world. It tugs at us when we lose our way pushing us to live a life that matters. Full of joy, but far from naive, the soul is no Pollyanna, well aware of the reality of pain, loss, grief and utter despair in human existence. Fortunately, the soul was engineered for resilience. Most important, the soul is the part of us anticipating the Beyond.
Third, accept that we are never alone. God is always with us. For extra assurance or documented proof, read Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not hurt you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Or Romans 8: 31-39, “Neither life nor death, angels or demons, present nor future, nor any powers, nothing in all of creation will ever be able to separate you from the love of God.” Or hear God in Psalm 139, “Go to the farthest limits of sea, and I’ll be there. Even when you come to your end, I will be with you.” Or God’s first promise in Genesis 28:15, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you home. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” And finally we hear God in what was my grandmother, Mimi’s, favorite scripture, the 23rd Psalm, “Walk through the valley of the shadows, and I will be there to restore your soul.” God also gives us family, friends, colleagues, faith communities, even strangers to love, encourage, embrace and buoy our spirits.
Fourth, Hope always. Hope is the fuel that keeps us participating, enduring, enjoying, prevailing and helping others to do the same. Hope is believing God will always find a way for us. Hope tells us to keep an eye on the horizon in anticipation of what God has in store for us next. Hope is essential to building cement block by block an unshakable dwelling for our soul.
And finally, love is all and enough. You could build your whole life, a “skyscraper faith” on this one steel rod of truth. Meaning, purpose and crazy joy, love will save you and everyone you love. No storm is too much for a soul where love is present. The original blueprint for each of us insured that love given and received was all we would ever need to accomplish our divine mission. When life feels shaky and uncertain, go love with complete abandon, with no conditions or rewards to oneself, willingly sacrifice if it means someone you love has a chance to stand and thrive. Here is the secret to living the life God dreamed for you and for me.
Live in Hope,