Sometimes people assume that faith is a crutch, a sign of weakness. But I would venture to say that believing in something you can’t see is actually an act of strength, courage, heroism even. Cynicism comes cheap and easy. It doesn’t require vulnerability. It doesn’t leave your heart tender and exposed. Cynicism is the easy road.
But faith? That’s another matter altogether.
When I was waiting and hoping for God to bring a baby into our family three years ago, I chose believe as my word for the year. A friend gave me a bracelet with the word etched into it, and I wore it all year. I’m not sure I ever arrived at whole-hearted belief, but wearing it felt like a promise, a down payment, something I was trying to live my way into.
After Graham was born, I passed the bracelet along to a friend who was trying to cling to belief herself. She wore it too, and God did a miracle in her life—both the internal kind and the big-answer-to-prayer kind. Then one day recently as we were praying together, she said, “I think it’s time for you to have this back.”
I blinked away tears as I fastened the familiar clasp. I’d been trying to believe again—for another miracle, another baby. But my belief felt fragile at best, and at times, nonexistent. It seemed too dangerous to put my heart out there to be hurt again. What if God said no? Could our relationship sustain that kind of disappointment? Wouldn’t it be safer not to hope, not to ask?
I found myself choking on the prayers, swallowing the words before they could make their way out. But every morning I fastened the bracelet, and that act itself felt like prayer.
Until one day when I was washing my hands, and without warning, the bracelet broke, clattering onto the cold tile floor. I’m sure there’s a rational, scientific explanation for what happened. But heaven help me, I’m a former English major, so instead my mind swirled with literary terms. Surely this was symbolism. Or foreshadowing. Or metaphor.
My belief is too flimsy.
My belief is broken.
My belief is damaged beyond repair.
But as I read the Christmas story through the lens of someone who is trying to believe, I find I’m in good company.
Zechariah said, “How can I be sure?”
Mary said, “How can this be?”
Joseph decided to divorce her quietly.
The shepherds were terrified.
It appears that God doesn’t choose those with the most rock-solid faith. He doesn’t pick the ones who are sturdy, immovable, fearless.
He chooses ordinary people—ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God. Because our faith doesn’t depend on how hard we hope or how firmly we believe; our faith is built on the One we believe in, the object of our belief. The ground doesn’t become less solid if we doubt it will hold us.
And so as we find ourselves in the season of miracles, the season of the impossible, I want to choose the vulnerable road of belief. Will you join me?
A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.Henri Nouwen
If there’s something you are daring to entrust to God in the year ahead, please let me know—I would be honored to believe on your behalf.
Postscript: Between the writing and posting of this blog, my servant-hearted husband fixed my bracelet. I have a hunch there’s a metaphor somewhere in there too . . . something about how belief is not a solo activity but a communal venture. Thank you, Daniel, and thanks to all the people who believe alongside us.