The Foolishness of Faithfulness

I have been thinking about I Corinthians lately and the “foolishness of the world.” The thing is, so much of my life and yours, probably, doesn’t look foolish to the world. Not really. Most of us live in snug homes with half-decent furniture and Apple TV and our choice of choice meat cuts at the grocery store. Even those who live paycheck to paycheck or who are in the quadruple plus digits of debt still look sane to the world. Normal. So what is it, I’m wondering, that sets a Christian apart? What looks foolish but is actually borne of great faith?

I can’t answer that for you, but as for me and my house, we unpacked half our books two weeks ago and took the For Sale sign off our yard, for now.

Because I have no background of a stable home, long-suffering faithfulness, or deep roots of any kind, I tend to equate consistency with faithfulness. I look at the people who stay as the real people of faith. I see pastors who commit as the real men of action. I see friends who never leave as morally superior. A few years ago a pastor critiqued me to another saying I lacked faithfulness and it wounded me deeply. Found faithful is all I’ve ever wanted to be.

These days I have just been sticking my head out of the cave those wounding words put me in, realizing that if “faithful” means never leaving, never changing, never growing out of or into, then I will never be found faithful. However, if “faithful” means looking foolish to the world and all her cronies, well, count me in. Being faithful, actually faithful, means that all of our lives will look almost incredibly (and I use that word quite literally to mean almost without credit) different. What is faithful to one will look unfaithful to another. What is right to one will look wrong to another. What seems foolish to one is wisdom to another. And at the end of all these days on earth as it is, we’ll stand before One God, Unchanging, who will ask us if we were faithful with exactly what he put in our hands to do.

I keep talking about almost being 40, as if it wasn’t a year and two months away, but like, tomorrow. But I sense this is a common feeling, else the mid-life crisis wouldn’t be so prosaic. I keep looking at the past twenty years, the past ten in particular, and seeing all these spaces where I’ve attributed morality to a kind of being and immorality to another kind. The one who believes this, moral. The one who believes that, misguided. The one who practices this, good. The one who does that, meh. The one who reads these, yes. The one who reads those, seriously? And then I’ve tried my damnedest to get myself into the good graces of those I esteemed to be the wisest.

But what did Paul say, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” God chose the lowly things, the despised things, the things that are not?

A friend asked me a few weeks ago (on a hotly debated topic in the Church): “But is there no absolute truth?! Isn’t it right to believe this? And wrong to believe that?!” I didn’t answer her question because I think the absolute truth is God is far more gracious than I know and far more just than I want. I think sometimes I need to be so convinced of the beauty of one doctrine, so that when it comes time to move through it, I can see the equal beauty of another. God’s word and this Christian life, I keep saying, is like a prism, not a tapestry, as Christians like to elucidate on in sermons about sides: “One side is messy and tangled and the other is beautiful.” I just don’t think it’s that simple. I think we see the sides, the reflection, the sun shining, the rainbows it makes on the wall behind us, the glass that could shatter, and the complexity of the prism from one point of view. And another sees it from another. And God sees all.

What is faithfulness now? I think it’s foolishness to the world and to me. I think it’s honestly looking at our lives and the snug homes we’ve built and the 401Ks and the heaps of stuff our credit cards have borrowed for us and our kids and our college educations and our books and our plans and our ideals and our deeply held beliefs and saying, “What are you doing right now, God? What do you want me to do right now? What will help me to know you and make you known to others right now? Even if it looks foolish to pastors and preachers, leaders and tweeters, friends and family?”

I wonder if the statement, “They dropped their nets and followed him,” has a modern day equivalent too: the safety net of security, the safety net of assumptions, the safety net of superiority, and the safety net of consistency, predictability, and the promise to never change, to always stay, just like this, right now, today?

More and more, I think true faithfulness is a promise to always change, never stay the same, to move further in and farther forward toward the likeness of Christ and the stewardship of what he’s put in our hands. Not the collective our, the solitary one: my hands.

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