If I ever lose my faith in you….?

One of my neighbors told me that he trusted that the closing of his property would take place even though he had moved out and the buyers were about to move in. All of this before the closing date. My realtor shared with me some horror stories and so didn’t advise any sort of “early tenancy” for us. This guy didn’t receive such counsel.

When I asked him if he really thought that was a good idea, he mentioned, “If you don’t have faith in people, what do you have?’ Or to put it in terms that Sting once sang about, “If I ever lose my faith in you….” What then?

I think that is definitely something to think about. Here are some random thoughts based upon a biblical anthropology. Should you have faith in people? No and Yes, yes and no, with some qualifiers.

Created in image of God and so reflect something about God
When you have found a trustworthy friend, pastor, teacher, parent, you have found a beautiful-or I guess rather handsome in some cases, thing or person. To be able to trust someone is huge, helpful, and brings great joy and relaxation. It is great to have some faith in people.

Created in image of God, but marred by sin and so naturally selfish
I personally didn’t want to give early occupancy because I suspected some kind of spiritual conspiracy plan in the works (3 contracts and 80 days from last contract to closing). But even without that fiasco of selling my house, I wouldn’t have granted folks I didn’t know very well an early occupancy. Part of it is because I don’t have a simple faith in people.

Created in image of God, but not God; not to mention man is sinful
Generally trustworthy is one thing, but 100% trustworthy, meaning that he/she will never let you down, is another. Expecting and demanding someone to be something that only Someone else can be is dangerously idolatrous and practically demoralizing. If you totally place your “faith” in anyone, even a spouse, pastor, teacher, brother/sister, or fellow church member, best friend, they will disappoint you. And if you are expecting them to never disappoint you, and then they disappoint you, simply by virtue of them not being Jesus, you will simply move on to the next disappointment. The little and natural disappointments over time can lead to serious division, anger, and divorce. Now I’m not excusing any time anyone lets you down, particularly when they sin against you. I’m simply saying there is a healthy expectation we can have that people will let us down. So don’t make faith in people, general or specific, your foundation.

Disappointed person is also sinful
The person who has no faith in people in any sense, (aka cynical) has in some ways forgotten about his own sin. If everyone else is a sinful idiot, then what about you? To say you have no faith in people doing anything because they are all sinful idiots, is perhaps pridefully ignorant, as oxy-moronic as that may sound. One can hold to the doctrine of total depravity (sin affects every faculty of the person-though not to the nth degree) for other people, but consider himself to be unaffected by it. Theology is good only when it is actually applied.

Can’t love if can’t open self to disappointment
To have “no faith in people” is a great way to protect yourselves from being hurt. But you also protect yourself from loving and being loved. That is one of the recurring themes in Call the Midwife. A safe way to live, but it is also being less than human to live in such a way.

Can’t delegate with no faith in people
To have “no faith” in people means you do everything yourself. You never delegate. Not good for a church plant. Not good for a family. Not good for a lot of things. 
In the end, the question of “what do you have” is not based upon how much or how little faith you have in people. Our ultimate object of faith is a Sovereign God who calls us into relationships with Himself (infallible), with His church (fallible yet redeemed) and His world (fallible but still bearing his His image). We have varying levels of “faith” in people that may vary as God works in them over time.

Disappointment: It’s not as bad as I thought

As a church planter you have to ask for things. Lots of things. Now everyone should ask for lots of things, but I’ve found myself doing that more these days because I have less in some sense. Though much was already committed before I was even “signed,” I still do have to ask for money. That’s kind of hard. But I also have to ask for people. And you can’t really ask people for themselves, at least not at first. Because of that I’m at the mercy of people returning phone calls, meeting me and meeting with me, showing interest in me, the church, or the gospel (preferably all three, but one out of three isn’t bad). Since I cannot provide that interest, I have to ask God for it. 

And while scary, it can also be kind of fun. It can result in great excitement and praise. 

For instance, I prayed for several neighbors that I had made contact with a while ago, yet hadn’t been able to connect with. I prayed specifically for two of them to return a phone call. Just 15 minutes after praying, I saw a name pop up on my I-phone. It was one of the two.

For a very short 5 seconds, I praised God out loud before answering the phone. There was talking, but it wasn’t to me. He had “butt-called” me. If you’re not familiar with that term, we’ll just say he accidentally called me without knowing it or realizing I had actually answered the phone.

From the heights of praise to the depths of disappointment. In 4.5 seconds.

James 4 reminds us that we don’t have because we don’t ask. So we should definitely ask. But the problem when you do ask-and I’ve already mentioned that I have to ask for a number of things I haven’t asked for before-is that you set yourself up for disappointment. You really do. I think we need to honestly count the cost of asking. 

Of course there is a reason that God says, “No, or not right now.” Just like when parents tell there kids, which is always a good reminder. Why should I expect my kids to take it so easy, when it’s hard for me?

With much asking comes much disappointment. Of course with much asking, comes much thanksgiving. But instead of basing my confidence in prayer or spiritual well being on how many times God said, “Yes” that week vs. how many times he said, “No” or “Not at the moment,” I’ve had to reconsider how I view disappointment. 

The Psalms are full of highs and lows. Full of disappointment and full of thanksgiving. You might think the persons writing them were a bit unstable. But I think that’s just a healthy vibrant spiritual life. If you aren’t disappointed, you probably don’t care all that much. And if you are disappointed, remember, that is so much better than being apathetic. Or even being dry. Going back and forth between disappointment and thanksgiving is far more healthy than a “stable” dry time.  

Disappointment is not a dark desert highway on the way to the Hotel California, but an experience of a real relationship with a Heavenly Father, who out of love, may say, “No” or “Not yet.” 

I’ve been dry. I’ve been on spiritual auto-pilot before. I’m learning that temporary disappointing periods are actually much better. It means there is a real Father-son relationship taking place, just like the one which takes place in my house each day. Highs and lows, but it is real, not robotic. I’m learning to see disappointment in a new light.