In my journey from amputation, through rehabilitation and on to recovery I have learned many things. The most important is the truth of St. Paul’s insight that “It is not I who live but Christ lives in me.” The wisdom and power of the Creator reside permanently in each of us. If we continually tap that resource we are guaranteed a life of abundant joy and productivity. Of course, we are also guaranteed struggles and difficulties because the Creator’s plans for our lives are never exactly the same as ours. But that’s the point. God seeks to maximize our experience of life while we have other ideas.
Most of us try to minimize life’s adventure. We do that because we turn our back on the vast wisdom and power readily available to us which leaves us trying to muddle through as best we can on our own. Feeling inadequate, anxious and afraid we tend to drift along doing whatever people expect us to do while avoiding risk whenever possible. Inevitably, the result is chronic boredom and dissatisfaction.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have discovered that the more I trust God to live His life through me the more I trust myself. When I let God take the lead I am a more self-confident person. I remember that God has gifted me with talents and skills, gifts that come alive when I pursue the dreams and passions God has also planted in my heart. In other words, the more I trust my creator the more I trust myself. And the more I am true to myself the more I am faithful to God.
Jesus once pointed out that it’s a bad bargain to gain the whole world if it costs you your soul. Many think that statement demands self-negation but it’s just the opposite. Getting along and going along with everyone generally means losing our God-given uniqueness. Identifying and making the most of whatever it is that makes us special, regardless of what people around us may say or think, rescues our soul because it is powered by our trust in God.
My journey from amputation through rehabilitation on to recovery has taught me many lessons. One of the most important is the difference between belief and trust.
For most of human history, just about everyone believed in some version of a god. In Europe, the existence of God was accepted as given. What divided people was the question of trust. Do you trust God and if so, to what extent and in what ways?
But times changed. The enlightenment birthed a new philosophy called Materialism which held that physical reality is all that ever was, is and will be. The inhabitants of Olympus, Valhalla and finally Heaven were banished to the realm of poetry and pious sentiment where for many they languish today.
This created a new situation. For the first time belief in God was called into question to such a degree that mere acceptance of the possibility that some kind of transcendence might exist became for many a substitute for faith. As a pastor, I can tell you that even some who attend church regularly think that their willingness to believe that there must be a God out there somewhere provides the total content of their faith.
But that was never what faith was about. Faith presumes the existence of God but goes beyond that to trust God and not just in regard to some vague afterlife because that doesn’t count. When it comes to dying there really isn’t a thing we can do about that so we might as well hope some sort of spiritual being will help us out there. The question is do we trust God in the here and now, day to day, hour to hour to empower and direct us? When we, for example, get in our cars do we trust God to bring us safely through traffic? More to the point, do we trust that God’s will and purpose is in play if he doesn’t?
Faith isn’t a matter of believing in God. It’s about living life out of the wisdom and power of God rather than our own skills and strength. We bring our abilities to the table every day but by faith, we do so with an awareness that God is the author of our life story and the goal of that story is to maximize our experience of living in all its breadth and depth. My journey forced me to learn that the content of faith is trusting that in life and death I am never operating on my own but God is constantly working in and through me his gracious will to accomplish. With that trust in place, I’ve learned to savor life, its challenges as much as its wonders, as an opportunity to participate in some small way in the exciting things God is doing in his world right now.