"I think that in American Christianity, we are very good at narrating the beginnings of our faith lives—our conversions, the dramatic things that brought us to God...
most of us pass most of our faith lives in various middles—moments after the glow of conversion may have dimmed, moments where God's presence might seem more elusive than it had earlier.
The middle territory can be terrifying. It can also be more interesting and richer than the beginning."-Lauren Winner
The map gave us a clear start and end. It didn't tell us how long the hike would take, or what trail conditions we would face.
The dirt path was flat and easy as we began. The sun shone brightly overhead, and the ocean was a blend of dark and lighter jade green hues flecked with white foam. At this point, the path was wide enough for us to hold hands as we talked.
After about five minutes or so, the path narrowed, and became more bumpy with little rocks. Having hurt my ankle badly before, I stepped gingerly around the rocks. Poison oak lined the path in some places.
At points, we walked one behind the other, as we shared the path with others. Then the path widened again.
We hiked up, then down stairs. I lost track of how many times we changed our vertical perspective.
When the wind blew hard, we held onto our hats, and a few times, we chased our hats. Large trees provided shade, but mostly, the sun's warmth penetrated, and caused us to part, temporarily with our jackets, until the next big gust of dirt whipped up.
My one constant and joy was being with my husband, and looking out on the ocean. Whenever I watch the waves rolling back and forth, I feel at peace.
When the trail seemed endless, and my ankle ligament felt tender, my man encouraged me to keep going. We took little breaks to enjoy the beauty around us.
It has been a few weeks since that hike, but what I most cherish is the memory of my husband's presence with me.
I have spent most of my faith journey with God in the middle since I came to faith at eight years old, alone with God and a gospel tract in my shared bedroom. I had no idea what would unfold in my life in the subsequent decades. But God's presence with me has been my one constant and joy.
He is the One I clung to when no one else was there as I wept. He comforted me. He gave me the ability to persevere.
Thankfully, God tells us many of the key trail conditions we will face in life.
- We will have troubles in this life but troubles don't win, He does.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 NIV
He lets us know that we will experience trouble (and who hasn't), but then He encourages us by letting us know that trouble doesn't get the final word. He does.
- When we explore a new dream, or learn a new role or job
"The LORD is the one who goes
ahead of you; He will be with you.
He will not fail you or forsake you.
Do not fear or be dismayed." - Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB
I thought of my spiritual walk with God, and how I have sometimes felt lost in a fog. The Holy Spirit is my inner guide, and the Bible and wise friends are my outward map. I am never alone, or abandoned regardless of what my feelings may say.
If you are in the middle of your faith journey, remember:
- You are not alone. God is always with you.
- Use your map: the Bible, the wisdom of friends, and those further along in their faith as guideposts.
- Don't travel alone. You need the encouragement of others.
- Take breaks. Enjoy where you are...Cultivate gratitude.
- The trail will end with a never ending celebration in heaven.
- Look out for the rocks and poison ivy of discouragement and ingratitude.
Where are you in your faith hike? What do you think of Winner's observation?
If you are in the middle, what helps you keep perspective and persevere?
* For more of Lauren Winner's interview by Laura Boggess, read here.
If you missed Part 1 of A parable at Land's End, then read here.
Giving thanks with Ann:
- Sunny and beautiful weather for our girl's birthday party hosted by her godparents
- For our girl
- Time laughing and talking with her, her friends, and her godparents
- Hubby's brother treated him to golf and dinner; brother bonding during a quick visit
Linking today with sweet and gifted friend Laura,
and giving thanks with wise Ann
and the amazing Jen
© Soul Stops/Dolly Lee 2012.