Faith Burn

4:59 AM


We sit at the kitchen table when she tells me quietly. I'm all giddy, tumbling along over my excitement -- I'm going to college! I'm going to college! And it's so amazing and [insert garbled Bailey squeal]!

I use the word "and" a lot. Too much. It drives me crazy, but it's who I am -- if a little three-letter connecting word can reveal personality. I think of life as a ribbon stream: something where everything fits together perfectly and keeps flowing on. Logical. Uninterrupted.

Sometimes, life's more about the but.

But.

My mother knows about the buts. She knows about the sacrifice. The crash-landed dream. She knows. And so she says quietly, gently, "Will you be okay if it doesn't work out?"

I freeze. "Why?" I ask, because I'm young and Bailey.

"I don't want you to get hurt."

Finances are tricky things, unfair things. Admissions isn't a one-two-three magical process. Rejection is true. Heartbreak is truer. She knows. She sees me tripping down my path, emblazoned with hopeshine, and she can see the but -- that one hole that may lie right where my feet are landing.

She's had to watch a firstborn's dreams crumble about him. College dreams. Finances again. Admissions again. She believes in me, more than anybody else. She knows I can do this college thing. It's the future that's uncertain. It's the but when I want an and. Desperately want an and.

I wanted this blog free of college drama. True, it's a big dream of mine, but it's such a raw page in my story -- the story with the ending starkly blank. You know how I ramble on, wordy and starry-eyed. You know how often I am wrong. I wanted to hide this and haunt a private journal until I saw the end and could tell the whole story of how God worked to bring about the crazy impossible -- the girl who swore she wouldn't go to college who is happily and nerdily situated on campus. I didn't want to come back and black out my silly hopes and dreams with REALITY.

I'm like this with the rest of my life -- always wanting to fix things up, stick it out to the end, never telling anyone, so I don't have to recant or backtrack or start from square one all over again. I don't like this chilling finiteness. I want to know -- whether the North was right to invade the South, whether the world will end tomorrow, whether socks get eaten in the dryer, whether I'm following God's will instead of dreaming from a deceitful heart.

I can't know. I have to believe.

That's the hard thing about faith. Faith isn't in living the XYZ formula. Faith isn't resting on a rock of logical certainty. Faith isn't what usually happens or what happens to other people but what God has called me to do. Faith is trusting in God instead of probability or "reality." Faith is hanging onto the rope dangling miles from the cliff's edge.

Hanging on for dear life.

Sometimes, because I formerly struggled with belief in a loving God, I doubt that God is good. I tremble back to uncertainty again, back to crawling before a god who dangles good in front of my nose and delights in watching me jump and fall. I convince myself that God's will is too nebulous a thing for me to understand and that I'm too sinful to follow it and how on earth can God predestinate when He loves the whole world? I often think God is a mean god. He wants perfect obedience -- and He wants it dredged up from our empty, filthy selves. He wants to see us come up with His will on our own so that we finally "get" it and don't have to stop for grace every breath we take. He wants us in a state of permanent fear and uncertainty.

The rope burns.

I want to be certain that I'll pack off to college this fall. There haven't been any roadblocks, just all open doors and flying colors. Still I tremble. Because there's always a chance I'm wrong. A chance God is mean. A but.

But you know something? God isn't mean. When we beg for His will, He will always reveal it -- in His time. I can't believe, knowing His character and faithfulness and His confusing, overwhelming love for me, that He would willingly open doors to slam them in my face, all while I'm on my knees begging for clarity. Begging to do His will.

If God doesn't deliver, if we can't see or trust His deliverance, then we're doomed. Dead men. We can't know everything. We can't know which path to take or what road to travel. So we ask our all-wise Savior -- the One who bled His life into a splintered cross. We get on our knees -- no, we get on our faces -- and we beg when we're blind.

Would a father give his son a snake when he asks for bread?

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We don't know what to pray for -- not as we ought. We spill out words and dreams that may or may not contradict His will, and the Spirit himself then intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. He who searches our hearts crying out to Him for clarity -- He knows the mind of the Spirit and He agrees with the Spirit, for the Spirit knows the will of God and prays for the saints according to that will. If we don't get it right, the Spirit will. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to the purpose (me, albeit imperfectly).

Stop for a second, Bailey. You quote that verse about good working out in the end when times are rough, when they're headed in a bad way, when the train's coming and we're about to get bowled over. In context, it's speaking of prayer -- praying in the Lord's will. God hears me. And He works out my requests and my dreams and my desires for His glory and for my good.

This story is raw. The faith burn hurts. But I'm not hiding it from you because I'm not hiding it from God. It's not really about college. I don't know if I'm going this fall. I don't. And it won't matter in the whole scheme of things. But I won't be afraid to live out this raw, burning faith -- because I'm not dangling in my own strength.

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4 impressions

  1. Hang in there, Bailey - the college application and admission process really is a nightmare, but if the Lord wills it for you, you'll make it. Don't give up. Your life holds great and marvelous things no matter where its path may lead you - if the path isn't college, it will be just as great and marvelous as it will be if it is. But don't give up on the college process yet. Things take time, finagling, etc. I'll be praying for you!

    Love in Christ,
    Vicki

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  2. This means so much to me, Vicki. Thank you.

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  3. I know exactly how you feel- I've been feeling like this myself lately. Minus the college part. ;) Hang in there, girl. :)

    *Hugs*
    Alexxus

    (Eagerly awaiting your next email, lovely!)

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  4. Thanks so much for posting this. I'm in a time of burning faith, too - although my situation is completely different, and has nothing to do with college.

    It's so true that we sometimes think God is mean. That He is just waiting for us to fall. However, the truth is that He is by our side all the time, that He loves us so very much, and has incredible plans for us.

    Hang in there, Bailey... God will work everything out in His perfect timing!

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