Enough Light For The Next Step

It’s been a while since we’ve posted here. This blog will serve as a bit of an update as I’ve processed through the last few months.

Picture with me that you are on a journey down a road and you reach the edge of a large cliff. You look out across and see the road continues ahead, but first you have to cross this expansive cavern. There’s no bridge and it’s far too wide to jump. A number of old cartoons, in which all sorts of freakish things occur in order to cross the cavern, come to mind. But this isn’t a cartoon. This is the journey of faith, and there’s nothing we can do on our own to cross this cavern of life. We’re all on a journey toward a destination, yet the road of our own strengths and abilities won’t get us there. Actually, trying hard to cross in our own striving and even religious works will only further move us off course (Galatians 5:4). This has far too often been my propensity. It finds its roots in the original sin, which ultimately demonstrated our lack of faith in God’s nature and a burning need to know, a need to have all wisdom and understanding. We want to be our own Gods because we lack faith in the God whose “understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). Instead of fearing the one who holds all wisdom and living our lives in faith, we now live lives paralyzed by fear. Fear of death, failure, suffering, etc.

This word picture has defined our journey over the last two years. In April of 2016 we attended the CMN Launch training as a step in our church planting journey. During a closing prayer and commissioning time we were given this word picture. The promise was simply that as we took each step of faith across that cavern, God would build the bridge underneath our feet. This is the journey of faith. This is the journey of church planting.

Yet, often our journey has been defined by fear, doubt, and unbelief. Psalm 111:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.” True wisdom, true knowledge, begins not in knowing all things, but in placing our lives in the hands of the one who does. 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that to live in Christ is to live by believing, by faith, not by seeing. It takes a lot of faith to take a step out into an open cavern and, without seeing how things will pan out, trust that you will land on something solid, something that will sustain and keep you (Psalm 121:5).

In Matthew 14, Jesus peacefully walks out on the raging sea toward a boat filled with His disciples. As he draws near, Peter has enough faith to call out to Jesus:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

It’s the same idea as the cavern. There’s no way to walk on water in our own abilities. It’s straight up supernatural. It requires faith and divine assistance. In addition, it requires that we take one step at a time and trust that the God who leads us will also sustain us. But we, so often, are like Peter. We fixate on the raging storm around us, rather than on the one who leads us out amidst the storm. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t calm the storm before Peter walked on the water. We aren’t promised a calm storm or an easy road. There’s going to be a cavern, a raging sea, that requires faith.

The only way to move forward is to take one step at a time, and to resist needing to know how everything pans out. Yes, have a vision for where you are going. But, much of our journey is a matter of believing in the next step and being OK when you don’t know what happens after that.

This has been our journey the last four months. Life has felt a bit like a raging storm. Everything has changed for us. New jobs, new home, new community, new church, new daycare for the kids, new health challenges, and so on. Yes, it took a lot of faith to take that big step back in August, but, we are learning this is a journey of taking one step at a time. And, in between each step, when we are tempted to focus on the wind and waves around us, it’s important to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10), to patiently wait knowing that He hasn’t left us or absconded us, and to trust that He is at work even when we don’t see it.

Vincent DePaul wrote:

The one who hurries delays the things of God.

This is the temptation. With our Americanized fast paced ideals, we rush on ahead and miss the very process of God. Creating space in my life for solitude, for centering prayer, scripture reading, daily examen, spiritual direction, and wise counsel has allowed me space to discern what God is doing and when and how to move onto that next step. In addition to these personal disciplines, I am also taking time to be present in the neighborhood, having lunch and coffee conversations, taking walks, and so on. These disciplines don’t earn my way to God. The bridge is built on faith, not works. But, it’s impossible to walk in faith if our life is filled up with other things. These disciplines open space for God to act, speak, and build His life of faith in me and for the Spirit to show me what is happening in the neighborhood. It keeps me grounded in today and content that God has given me enough light for the next step.

Here’s how Henri Nouwen so beautifully puts it:

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, "How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?" There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let's rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.

This is the journey of faith. It is also the journey of church planting. There are some exciting things happening, but it’s slow and gradual. I am grateful that God is using this initial season to slow us down and teach us the importance of taking one step at a time and finding joy in His process.