I am so glad faith has nothing to do with my feelings. If it did, I would be really, really horrible at it. On top of that, every single day I would live under a load of guilt about how little faith I had. All the guilt I had for my lack of faith would pile higher and higher and make me feel worse and worse. The worse I felt, the less faith I would think I had. Life would continue in a vicious cycle of discouragement, as the devil would convince me that he was winning and I had no hope in life because clearly I was the most worthless child of God to ever breathe the breath of Life. I am so glad faith isn’t a feeling.
I have been spending some time thinking about the book of Romans lately. It has definitely become one of my favorite books in Scripture. It is more than a little countercultural. America and the rest of the world don’t really understand a lot of things it says. Neither do I.
I have been enjoying thinking about how Paul instructs us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but rather think of ourselves with sober judgment. That would be expected in the context of Christian community. We expect to be told to be humble, but I love what he says next. We should think of ourselves based the faith God has given us. Not on our spiritual gifts (which Paul does go on to speak about), nor our natural talents, how hard we work, how well we follow rules, how beautiful we are, how much those who surround us admire us, or what we have accomplished in life. No, use sober judgment when you think of yourself; and when you do, consider only your faith in your assessment.
Have I mentioned how glad I am that faith is not a feeling?
Paul doesn’t say it, but I wonder if the faith I have had in the past really matters in this assessment of myself if I am not taking the step God is asking me to take now. Can I say, “Wow, I am doing great! I listened when God told me to… three years ago!” if I am telling Him to shush about what He would like me to do today?
It has struck me that what God values is so different than what we value. We can value things like pulling ourselves up by our boot straps, our income, our intelligence, our resumes, our careers, our job titles, our education. (Can anyone tell I live in a city full of mostly young urban professionals? Yup, you probably were thinking, “I wonder if she’s a yuppie.”)
I know people can value these things because I used to base all my self worth in these things. Then one morning I sat on the edge of my bed. God asked me to give it all up, so I could put Him first in my life again. In a few brief years, I moved from “director” to “babysitter”. There were tears shed along the way, but one way to get rid of an idol is to get rid of the idol.
I know people struggle with these things because back in the day when someone who was new in my circle of friends would ask me what I did for a living and I would calmly reply that I babysat, one of my well-meaning friends would have to jump in and say, “Yeah, but she used to…” as if babysitting did not do me justice.
And eventually I quit telling the story of what I used to do. I quit telling it because it quit mattering to me. I also quit telling it because I wanted to challenge the people around me to love me for who I was not for what I did. I wanted them to know a babysitter could be smart, intelligent, helpful, hardworking and significant. I wanted them to quit valuing things that didn’t matter.
It was really hard for me because I desperately wanted people to view me as smart, intelligent, helpful, hardworking and significant. People didn’t always do that. It is much easier to dismiss the opinion of a babysitter than it is to dismiss the opinion of a director. In the town I do most of my life in, I can actually walk down the street and hear parents instruct their children that they should never turn out like me. It is an interesting emotional experience. One which I find now slightly amusing though it used to hurt quite badly. If only they knew how much more peace I have now. Do not rob your child of peace in an effort to force him to pursue prosperity.
Do I actually believe everything I just told you? Probably not. I still want people to think I am smart, intelligent, helpful, hardworking and significant. I still want them to acknowledge that I matter. I still want them to think “Wow, isn’t she great!” when they see my life. At least my old nature wants those things. My new nature never wants to return to get her value from a job title. I got really burnt by that when it was my god. Measuring oneself by one’s job sucks.
On the other hand, I am really grateful Paul tells us to measure ourselves by our faith. My faith is actually something I can choose. When God asks me to do something, I can actually follow Him into doing it. I can’t do it alone. I will desperately need Him along the way. He never seems to ask me to do things that I am capable of doing without Him anyway, but instead only things I desperately need Him for. I can always choose to follow Him though it be on trembling legs and with quivering lips.
Have I mentioned how grateful I am that faith isn’t a feeling?
Do you think of faith as a feeling or action? When you think of yourself, do you measure yourself by your faith or by other external factors in your life?