This morning as I was driving to the office I saw Leland. Many of you know Leland. I was delighted to see him for the first time since he has been recovering well from COVID and has been able to begin to work again.
As I pulled the truck over to the side of the road, Leland came over and a twenty minute conversation began. I obviously cannot tell you what Leland said as that would be inappropriate. But what I can tell you is that he told his story of COVID in the context of his faith and how his faith helped him to work through the illness—how God brought him through it. Both of us began to share more stories of faith when the presence of God manifested in our lives. I observed that one faith story would open a faith story of the other and the exchange continued to expand the circle of Life that encompasses all of us.
What impresses me about Leland, is that he is anything but timid when he tells his faith story. But in not being timid, he is anything but arrogant. Leland is one of the most humble people I know. One thing I do know is that God has a hold of that man. When one is held by God we are confident and humble at the same time, something the human ego cannot accomplish.
The other thing I realized how the Spirit’s presence manifested and expanded within me in the hearing and the telling of the faith stories. I felt strengthened and an inner quiet at the same time. Sometimes the faith stories would end in silence because the closer we get to God the more we discover that there are no words to describe the experience. The words, “peace”, “joy” and others seem to fall away empty in comparison to the experience.
I wonder in the scope of the each day, what percentage of our time or conversations involve telling our faith stories? Many of us are timid, and anxious about telling our stories, perhaps feeling a lack of competence in the area. This is an unfortunate mistake as St. Paul discovered when he said in I Corinthians 2: When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
It doesn’t matter when we’re telling our story if we fumble looking around for words, or hesitate, or aren’t as polished in our presentation as a PhD theologian. We have a choice whether to challenge ourselves to get over our fear of inadequacy of telling our stories, or even if they reveal that there might be a weakness in our faith somewhere. We all have our weaknesses and there’s no reason to be ashamed. Shame died on the cross and it’s quite absurd to give shame any power over our lives because it just keeps us enslaved and burdened instead of free. I remember the quote from the comic Pogo many years ago: We have met the enemy and he is us. My greatest challenges in life are the ones that exist between my ears.
It is especially appropriate now to hear and tell faith stories as they will cut through the isolation that the COVID event has created and refresh us. God stands between two individuals directing and enhancing the spiritual connection between them breathing life into each as they hear and tell. The Spirit works like a Trinitarian mystery as the bonds grow deeper and stronger and we feel the Divine Life flowing through us.
Here’s my challenge to you—actually it’s God’s: Choose someone daily to contact and hear their faith story and tell one of yours for five minutes. Do this for a week and note what is happening in your spirit. Tell others of the benefits of this practice.
Enjoy (“In joy”),