Part 9:  The Paradox

Part 9: The Paradox

Finally, what about this faith gap thing that I had been unable to bridge for my entire life?…Until now. What have I learned? I’ll always be thankful, in particular, for two things that my cousin, David Goodall, shared with me about his own faith. First, David said, “I regarded that faith is more a matter of decision than some sort of breakthrough from heaven.” Second, he said, “the very things that were stumbling blocks were, paradoxically, the answers.” For many weeks I was baffled and even frustrated by this. It was like David had posed a riddle to me that I could not decipher. I asked David one time if he would elaborate. He didn’t answer and I didn’t ask again. Nothing happens by accident. This was David’s challenge to me and I would need to work through it on my own, albeit I now had a new partner in Jesus to help me.   The answer did not truly dawn on me until many months later. So what does this mean?

My faith gap has always been like I am standing on one side of the Grand Canyon and I envision that, if there is a God, He is standing way on the other side calling to me. He is so far away that I can’t hear Him. I can’t even see Him. I can only see this deep canyon in front of me that separates us. I am alone. All I had to do is step off of the canyon edge to prove my faith and He would then reveal himself to me and save me from my fall. But I could never take this “leap of faith”. The problem here is that I was using a metaphorical image that was incomplete. I don’t think God ever wanted or intended that I should take this “leap of faith”. This is “blind” faith and is really no faith at all. I don’t think that true faith can be blind. I have come to understand that true faith or belief can only come from deliberate and thoughtful and obedient choices that I make of total free will based upon my understanding. It is from these purposeful and obedient choices that true, real, and genuine faith emerges.

We sometimes speak of life as a journey and use the metaphorical image of a road to visualize this journey. For me, this road is a good metaphorical image to help in illustrating how I finally did bridge my faith gap. This road represents the progression and continuity of my past experiences and choices, my present knowledge and beliefs, and my future potential and destiny. This thought, or faith, leads automatically to a profound conclusion. If it is true that nothing happens by accident then this journey was and is already known by God including, particularly, the future. But if it is all already known by Him then how does my own free will play a determinant factor? I think that this is part of the infinite wisdom and mystery of God. This is where faith, by definition, has to depart from our human nature to desire and struggle for knowledge and control. God gave us free will and He knows, in advance, what we did with it. Don’t try to figure this out. Time is not a constraint or barrier to God. He created it.

Here is what has happened on my own journey. My road has turned often over the past several years due to my intense desire and efforts to change and due to the help I’ve been blessed with from many people who have cared and given me their time. These turns in my road are the points in my journey where challenging experiences and difficult choices have slowly changed how I see and how I interpret my world. I simply came to a place on my road where I stopped and I looked next to me and I saw another road. This was a much different road from mine. I saw Jesus standing on this road and He was reaching out to me. I knew this was to be a significant turning point in my journey. It was only a question of which of these two roads I would choose to travel. This would be a purposed choice between continuing on my road and choosing His road.

In the paradox that David spoke of the stumbling block was always, for me, that I felt spiritually alone. I could not see or hear or feel God. The great canyon that separated me and God was an impassable barrier. If I was going to bridge this faith gap it was going to be by my own logic and reasoning. But I could not do this. My failure to brain my way to faith allowed me to perfectly rationalize my lack of faith. I couldn’t figure it out on my own so it must not be; right? If I was spiritually alone then I was perfectly justified in doing life my way and doing life for me.

The paradox is that I was not alone. I had to come to a point in my journey, my search for truth, where I recognized and felt Jesus presence. Jesus had always been there. As David said, this recognition was not some sort of magical breakthrough from heaven. I think this is just where my cumulative experiences, choices, knowledge, and beliefs placed me. The paradox is that I was waiting for this elusive faith to appear so that it could drive my choices. I had to learn that it works in the opposite way…obedient choices drive faith. I only had to make a new choice to take His hand and take one simple step onto His road. I did this with my prayer on July 18. The paradox is that this new road has always been next to my old road. I just couldn’t see it for all the clutter that my pride and arrogance blinded me with. The final paradox is that this new road included a beautiful bridge that spanned the great canyon which separated me from God.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (Jam 4:8)