We are already 59 days into 2017. New Year’s resolutions have come and gone, diets and gym attendance are now a distant memory, and the new year has dulled like your car under its coat of winter grime.
In other words: I should have written this post several moons ago.
But have you ever had a dream or a goal or a whisper of a hope that was just too tender to put into words? It feels so delicate, and you’re afraid that if you bring it out into the harsh winds of reality, it will get blown over or stepped on unceremoniously. It seems safer to keep it inside the glass case of your own heart.
But here’s the hard truth about keeping dreams enclosed in a glass case: While they may not get trampled that way, eventually the oxygen will get squeezed out, and the dream will shrivel.
As this year approached, I searched for a word to focus on in the year ahead. The truth is, I’m terrible at resolutions, so I figured if I only had to remember one word, maybe I’d be able to hang on to it—or at least remember it come April.
After a great deal of mulling and re-mulling, one word kept haunting me: believe. I balked at first. After all, I’ve believed in God for a long time . . . for as long as I can remember, in fact, though in varying degrees.
But the implication for this year seemed more personal. We weren’t just talking about “Do I believe in God?” It hit closer to the jugular than that.
Do I believe God is who he says he is in my life?
Do I believe his promises are true for me?
Do I believe he still does miracles?
Do I believe that he is for me . . . that he loves me, personally?
And will I keep on believing in him—whether he says yes or not?
Somewhere along the way, when it came to the deepest desires of my heart, I’d started hedging my bets with God. I wasn’t sure if he’d give me the thing I longed for, so I stopped talking to him about it in a real way. When he and I did talk, I’d hit him up with platitudes along the lines of “Thy will be done,” with my emotions safely checked at the door.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that prayer—it was modeled by Jesus, after all. But I’d forgotten the first part of his prayer—the part where he cried out his desire before his Father so earnestly that his sweat came out as drops of blood.
I wasn’t being pious by holding my request in check; instead, I was showing a lack of belief. Whether God decided to grant my desire or not, I needed to be real with him about what I was asking him for, what I was believing for.
And so, as this year has launched, I’ve begun taking some baby steps toward believing. It feels vulnerable and scary, because when you put yourself and your big ask out there, you’re setting yourself up to get hurt. But there’s an important part of this puzzle I’ve been overlooking: belief isn’t really about the strength of my faith; it’s about the object of my faith.
The God I believe in is a good Father; he is infinitely tender with us. So if he doesn’t give us what we’re asking him for, I have to believe it’s because he has something better than our finite minds can conceive. Better to ask and allow him to say no (or yes) than to always wonder what might have happened if we’d had the courage to really ask.
So what does it look like to believe? I’m still young at this, but so far, this is what I’m trying:
1. Writing my big, audacious request in my journal.
I have a journal with this quote from Alice in Wonderland on the front: “I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast.” That’s a big goal for a girl who tends to hedge her bets, but I’m giving it a shot.
2. Allowing friends to believe on my behalf.
I’ve shared my big request with some people I love and trust, and it is a gift to know they are hoping and praying for me when I don’t have it in me to muster up much belief on my own.
3. Believing on behalf of other people.
I’ve asked other people what I can believe this year for them. Somehow it feels easier to have faith for their big request than for my own, and there’s something beautiful that happens when we share our tender hopes and beliefs with each other.
What are believing for this year? If you’re willing to share, let me know, and I’d be honored to believe with you and pray for you. And do you have any tips for holding on to belief in a tangible way?