Leaning on Jesus. It all sounds so easy in the hymns. I was just listening to a song I stumbled across for the first time in 45 years from the Jesus movement where it was for a short time “cool” to lean on Jesus. The song suggests that all you have to do is take Jesus’ hand… just like that. It sounds like the three step marketing plan or the five rules of… (fill in the blank).
I have not found the door of faith to be an easy route. Rather, like Jesus advised in the book of John, the narrow gate is hard because it requires such suspension of logic, while in contrast, wide is the way that leads to destruction. There is a semitic saying that’s rather comical. “Trust God and tie your camel”. It means you are really trusting in your due diligence, but writing that off, as God. I am not advising against good sense but it has occurred to me that trust in Jesus really means you are probably screwed by worldly definitions because you are out of options. I have joked over my lifetime that artists don’t have much choice but to trust in God. It’s a saying that makes me wince from recollections of uncomfortable times when I was solo flying with God sitting silent in the cockpit.
And yet, here I am. For all that I could not call in alternate plans to rescue me, leaning on God seems to have worked. What this really means is that I have an odd collection of coincidences in my life that I cannot explain away, and make no sense whatsoever unless told as a collective. The punch line would be, I don’t know WHY faith in God has worked but apparently it has. It leaves me wistful and scratching my head not wanting to look like an idiot. Saying that God loves us rolls easily off the tongue, but I also have a hard time believing it on any given day.
In the Bible we run across what faith might really look like. Saint Peter is alternately lauded and castigated as the guy who had a lot of faith, and the guy who had no faith at all. He’s brash and bold and the topic of many sermons. Be like Peter. No don’t be like Peter. The picture I have in my head is the moment where the boat is about to be swamped and they see Jesus making his way like a spectre over the water. Can you place yourself there? Everyone is cowering in the boat expecting the worst. Jesus does NOT come along in a trawler with life jackets and ropes. He comes solo with no backup, just him walking across the water all sanguine and happy. Then he does the imaginable- he tells Peter to join him. That’s right Peter. Step out of the boat into the storm. Go ahead. It’s easy. Right? Peter DOES step out of the boat, looks around, feels his knees quiver, and starts to sink. Then he really HAS to be saved by Jesus. That’s a cold comfort. There is truly nothing Peter could have done at that moment to save himself. Even his faith was a bit of a joke.
This Christmas, we have the sad truth of brushing up against a lot of people who have had a very tough year. I don’t know what words of consolation I can offer because some of the situations have been very tough. I want to say “lean on Jesus” and then I scold myself because I realize we are already there. We are in that boat on uncharted waters. I don’t like to look like an idiot by suggesting things that have no bearings, no bumpers and no methodology as a solution. I don’t want to say “just have faith in God”. It means that like me, they really have no more attractive alternative in sight.
I am bound in that uncomfortable space where I am told that faith is a gift. When faith is your only avenue, it’s never very comfortable. I understand from the Bible that faith is a grace that only comes from God. Have faith they say…. so very lightly. I am also thinking of those famous lyrics to Amazing Grace. This is a picture of where faith really leads - to the OTHER side of the storm, where you stand on the shore and pinch yourself. You have been carried to this place by the inexplicable. “Twas grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home”. You can’t be argue this rationally at all - I guess that’s why they call it faith. I am left with advising the route that seems most uncomfortable even for me.