Small Steps of Faith

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Take a leap of faith.” I’m not capable of leaps of faith.

For me, the saying means taking a big risk without a guaranteed outcome but in the hope that God or destiny will come through and your faith will be rewarded.

I’m not ready for leaps of faith. Not that I don’t have faith, and not that I’m not willing to take risk. But, if it only takes the faith of a mustard seed to move a mountain, my faith must be so small, I can barely command a few grains of sand to move with a strong wind to help it along. Leaps of faith seem to be something I’m just not very capable of at this time in my life, and fooling myself into thinking I am capable only seems to lead to pseudo-faith efforts that are comprised more of my own strength rather than trust in God and inevitably end up failing.

Twelve years ago I wrote a poem about taking a leap of faith called Together Alone and that leap of faith didn’t turn out very well for our hero either. Recently I have found myself in the exact situation that my poem was written to represent. And I find myself there for pretty much the same reasons that were alluded to in the poem: Placing your faith in the wrong place and relying on yourself and your mate to get you through life’s toughest challenges. How’s that for life imitating art?

Yet in my current situation, the outcome that I desire requires me to have the kind of faith that actually does move mountains. The things I am hoping for are nothing short of a miracle: That my broken marriage will be restored and that the attitudes and behaviors that caused me to contribute to the downfall of my marriage will be changed.

These things require a miracle because as my marriage stands, my wife seems so hurt and angry with me over things that have happened that she does not even think she is capable of having a healthy relationship with me even if she does choose to forgive me and try to forge ahead. And that is the smallest of obstacles, there are even bigger challenges to our marriage being restored that fly in the face of situations that conventional wisdom would tell you are a death sentence for any marriage.

Likewise, my ability to change seems like a near hopeless endeavor. For one thing, there are things about myself that I have desired to change for decades now and I feel like my success in this can be measured in millimeters. I have long looked up to men whose attitudes and disposition I admire and thought, “God, if I could only be more like them,” men whose seem so kind, so gentle, so strong, so confident, and so humble. And yet, I feel like that goal of modeling myself after men like that is still miles away.

The other miracle requiring barrier to changing my attitudes and behaviors seems to be my sheer obliviousness to what my real problems are. Over the past month I have spent considerable time in prayer, meditation, and reflection and I have started to realize things about myself and how I was (mis)treating my wife that I was so blind to and I feel like I should have been aware of for all the effort and energy I thought I had put into preparing to be the best husband I could be. And I’m sure I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of discovering my blind spots. How much more do I need to dig up, and when I do, how on earth am I going to break those habits and change those behaviors that are so embedded in me that they might as well be coded into my DNA?

The obstacles are tremendous. And the one thing I have learned is that I am powerless to overcome them with all my own might. In fact, all my efforts seem to only make things worse. Which is why I only have one option: To fall on my face before God and pray that he work a miracle: Work a miracle in my wife so that she will be willing to give our marriage another chance and work a miracle in me so that I will be capable of being the husband she deserves and desires.

And if I am going to have to place my full trust and faith in God to work this miracle, I am going to have to do the very thing that is hardest for me and I feel like I am truly incapable of doing: Let go and let God. Or, to put it another way: take a leap of faith.

So here I am, crying out to God, “God, please heal my wife’s broken heart! God, please restore our broken marriage! God, please my transform my broken soul!”

And what do I hear in response? Silence. And silence. And silence.

Then, through the silence, I hear only one thing: “Don’t worry. I got this. Your wife will heal. Your marriage will be restored. You will be transformed. Trust in me. Trust in my timing. I want to work a miracle in you, in your wife, and in your marriage. I am going to work a miracle and through that miracle I am going to reveal my power for all to see.”

What am I supposed to do with that??? Is that God speaking to me? I so want to believe it is. I do believe it is! I know this is what God is saying to me. I know this is the promise God is speaking to me just as surely as I have known anything – just as surely as I have known other promises before that I felt required a miracle and then God came through and delivered on – not by own efforts, but by his might hand working a miracle in the most unexpected of ways…

Or… is that voice my own voice? Are my desires morphing into delusions and mocking me with false hopes? Is this just my inability to let go and let God cutting through the silence and using my most heartfelt prayers to continue to hold me chained to my reliance on my own strength? Can you see my dilemma?

I think I may have found some answers, though. In a truly ironic twist, all I needed to do was go to the two places in the Bible where my name was featured and the answers were staring me right in the face. Truthfully, I did that, but I didn’t see them. Thankfully, God used two sermons by two preachers to open my eyes to the answers that were staring me in the face all along.

The first sermon was “Awestruck: Elizabeth” delivered by Albert Tate on December 9, 2018.

December 9, 2018? Seriously God? The last day I held my wife’s hand, the last day my wife and I had a tender loving moment, just hours before everything fell apart and my wife and I made absolutely terrible choices that hurt each other so deeply that we set into motion the sledgehammer that would drive the the final spikes into the coffin of our marriage that was already on the faintest of life support? That day? Seriously?

The second sermon was “The Day of Small Things” delivered by Erwin McManus on November 26, 2017.

November 26, 2017? Seriously, God? The very day that the first real cracks in our relationship started to truly make themselves known? The very day when we said and did such terrible things to each other that we are still carrying the scars of that night with us? The very day that would serve as a warning, a foreshadowing of worse things to come if we didn’t get on a different path – a path we never managed to find which inevitably did lead to worse things, the very things that finally tore our marriage apart and broke my wife’s heart beyond repair? That day? Seriously?

In Awestruck: Elizabeth, Albert Tate talks about Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, and how they prayed to God day in and day out for God to give them a child. And day in and day out, the answer they received was silence. And as the days added up, they both became older and older until they were finally well beyond the age where having a child would even be possible. And still, they remained faithful. And still, they heard nothing.

The message of this sermon is that even in silence God has a plan. Even in our darkest moments of doubt, in our most gut wrenching moments of fear about an uncertain future, God has our future planned and he has gone ahead of us and holds tomorrow in his hands. God is saying to us, “I got this. Don’t worry. I’m not worried. I’ve already gone before you.

In The Day of Small Things, Erwin McManus talks about the building of the temple as described in Zechariah 4 and how the people of Israel were anxious and disappointed in how little progress was being made, their eyes focused on and hoping for the end result and failing to acknowledge the millions of little steps that needed to be taken to get there.

The message of this sermon is that in order for God to accomplish great things in our lives, we must trust God’s plan and wait patiently as he builds a great thing within us, brick by brick. Our own strength, our desires, our enthusiasm, our belief in the promise God has given us of the end result all mean nothing and will accomplish nothing but delivering to us frustration. God is at work. And that work is happening one day at a time, one step at a time. We cannot rush it. It will take time. That big thing will come, but it will come through many small things.

And this is where I find the answer to my dilemma. It doesn’t matter if that voice I hear delivering that promise that I know to be true comes from God or my own desires. Those desires, they are for good. Those desires, they come from God. That promise, as specific as I want to believe it is, ultimately boils down to this: “Zachariah. You are still alive. I am not done with you yet.”

I can put my hope in God that he has great things planned for me. He has great things planned to bring into my life. He has great things planned to bring into my wife’s life. He has miracles he wants to work in both of us in order to make himself known to the world. And whether or not those great things are what I think they are isn’t the point. Whatever those great things are, the things God has planned for me, my wife, and for us, are bigger and more magnificent and more miraculous than either of us can even imagine right now.

All I have to do is keep breathing. All I have to do is keep going. All I have to do is place my faith – what little faith I have – in the right place: in God instead of myself or others. All I have to do is to stop focusing on the end result and just focus on the next step. All I have to do is focus on today and focus on what I can do right right now.

And when I started do that, everything suddenly became clear. I may not be able to do much right now – but I can think of a few small things.

Some of these things directly relate to reaching the end goals: Seeking out counseling, joining a support group for people with similar struggles, listening to podcasts and sermons that address issues my wife and I faced in our marriage, and making a habit of reading the Bible and praying faithfully each day, seeking wisdom, healing, and transformation of my soul.

Other things don’t seem to relate directly to the end goals at all, but they are also small steps of faith – small steps that are doable and will train my mind and my soul to trust in God more deeply day by day: Going public with my faith, sharing how God is working in my life with others, inviting others to church, tithing faithfully, and being intentional about setting aside the time each week to serve in my church and to fellowship and worship with other believers.

I may not be capable of leaps of faith. I may not be ready for a leap of faith. But God isn’t asking me to take a leap of faith. God is calling me to take small steps of faith. And taking small steps of faith? That I can do. That I will do. I will leave the rest up to God.

God will take care of the leaps. I will take the small steps.

Awestruck: Elizabeth | Albert Tate

The Day of Small Things | Erwin McManus