Do you remember the way the roads looked in those old western TV shows or Little House on the Prairie?
Kinda like this:
They all had these wagon wheel ruts in them.
As I was discipling a couple of ladies last night, we began to talk about what I had written in my last post (see my "Faith" post). During our conversation, one of the ladies asked me, "But how do we have that kinda faith? How can we just look past people's offenses?"
As we continued to discuss her questions, I felt the Lord impress on me the mental image of wagon wheel ruts. If you know anything about addiction and what it does to the human brain, then, you probably have heard that addicting behaviors literally carve pathways into your brain's physiology. As a person continues to feed the addiction, those pathways deepen over time making it harder and harder to not give in and do something different.
These pathway carvings are like wagon wheel ruts. Over time, the ruts get deeper and deeper. Trying to pull a wagon wheel out of one of these ruts could often lead to a broken wheel. Also, choosing to not follow the ruts and dig new ones was tremendously difficult and risky because you ran the risk of falling back into a rut and again breaking a wheel.
Along those same lines, I believe any serious shift in the way we do things can be compared to this image, even shifts in our spiritual lives. The answer to the lady I was discipling's question is not a pat, easy answer. It is one that is difficult and bears a fair amount of risk.
We must dig new ruts.
Just as the person breaking free of an addiction must learn to carve new pathways (most successfully with God's help), we must learn to think about faith/trust in a new way. The first step is getting the wheel out of the rut. This is often a huge effort (depending on how deeply engrained the something is that we are trying to change) and can be painful and scary as we try to let go of the way we have always thought or done something.
In regards to faith ("How do we have that kinda faith?"), I think the shift becomes less about having the faith/trust in Jesus to deal with a situation and more about having the faith/trust to see Jesus behind/past the situation. This is a big shift. One focuses on dealing with it. The other focuses on letting it go.
After the wheel has gotten out of the rut, we now have to tread over uncharted territory. The road less traveled Frost would tell us. The territory deals with the the how to's ("How can we just look past people's offenses?"). I think the answer lies solely in the One to whom we are looking. As we look past the offense or fear and focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we find ourselves focusing much less on what we must do and much more on who He says we are to be.
We can look past people's offenses because the King in in control and that same King has adopted us as His children, and if we are His children and He is total absolute control, what offense or fear could possibly harm us without His sovereign hand directing, protecting, and sustaining us through it all?
*I doubt very much that that long sentence is correct grammatically but it works for me :-)
So, I am testing out this new ground. Is it kinda scary and hard? Sure. But not because of God. It is scary and hard because it is new. But nothing stays new. Eventually, it becomes a part of what we do. But I am a long way from that.
I've gotta dig some new ruts.