but yet believed

She prayed over me the words, ‘Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.’ She prayed them over me as we sat on an old church pew, me completely in tears and face-in-hands, her arm around my shoulders. She prayed them as people worshipped and lifted songs to the Lord – as I felt too perplexed even to lift my face.

Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

These words and stories that I’m typing out now are words and stories wrought of the struggle of the past few weeks, couple of months. It’s the struggle of feeling blind, perplexed and not sure why, like its hard to hold onto the truth of our great God. It’s hard to articulate:

words strain
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will
not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

T.S. Eliot

Under the pressure of longing but failing to know God and see his grace, words slip, perish and fall.

But – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Jesus spoke these words to Thomas, Thomas who doubted and would not believe until he saw the scars in Jesus’ hands and side. Against this example, Jesus calls us to believe in his truth even when we cannot see. Even when it might feel like God’s truth and anything concrete in this world are like gold-fine sand slipping through our weak fingertips, he invites us to press in and press forwards, learning to believe and stand firm on the Rock.

God is teaching me these things in this time of struggle. He’s teaching my heart how to beat more to his rhythm even when it feels dark and difficult and a little bit like I just want to cry. He’s teaching me of his love and his persistence and faithfulness – my roots are growing in his grace even when I can’t see them and don’t know how.

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growing roots in God’s grace

It’s like the canvases I saw when I sat on King’s wall a couple weeks ago, trying to write and process and pray. Across the road, in an art shop, a woman was preparing canvases to be painted or wrapped up or displayed or something. Even in times of struggle, God similarly prepares us for his purposes – we may not know why or what for, but even when we cannot see we can trust that God’s ways are good, that he’s still there and bringing us life.

Thus – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Sitting in supervisions, God still whispers this truth to me. I’ve been writing essays on Paul and his letters, one about justification by faith. Paul cites Abraham as his example: the one chosen and called by God, completely by grace, before even the covenant was established. The promise and the faith came first, and Abraham responds, walking

towards a future, the only guarantee of which is the Lord’s call.

(Words from Enzo Bianchi’s ‘God, where are you?’ – would recommend even just the first chapter of this book!)

Abraham struggled to have faith, experiencing the darkness of the night and the long journey of pursuing God’s impossible purposes. Yet through the struggle, he still believed – and this granted him righteousness.

May I walk towards the future, even if it’s guaranteed only by the promise and faithfulness of God. I may not see or understand, I may still be perplexed – but may I be one who, although unseeing, is still believing.

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towards a future

My prayer – Blessed is the one who has not seen, but yet believed.

Blessed is the one who believes, and blessed are those who are confused and perplexed and feeling-low. Blessed are the tired and lonely and not-quite-understanding-why, blessed are the frail and weak.

Blessed are these who feel down-and-out, but yet believe.

Blessed are those who hold your hand, God, as they walk through desert places of tears and hard emotions and difficult conversations and pain. They are held in your arms and your heart beats love for them in their tears.

Blessed are those whose words break down as they try to articulate their struggle, and blessed are those who find it hard to look for hope as they gaze out across a world broken by injustice. You are still with them.

Blessed are those who feel hard things, but are still identified and guided by you.

Your truth still holds, Father – may we have faith and believe.

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turn towards the Father
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wildflower

I sit amongst the wildflowers and I consider their fragility.

Delicate petals filter morning light and turn it golden-pink and orange. Tall thin stems lean in the breeze, tangledly lacing over each other. Trees’ leaves rustle brown-gold in the background.

This beauty is Today’s, but to how many Tomorrows does it belong? It’s cold and autumnal already, and there can’t be many more days until blue frost envelopes these wild fragile flowers.

For weeks now I’ve been meaning to put into words what I’ve been learning and praying, God’s gentle voice nudging me in the right direction (when I have turned my ears to listen). I’ve been learning out of a place of often feeling empty and a little bit unseeing, a place that is hard to describe. A bit of a wilderness, perhaps – tough and rough and prickly – marked by a path that is hard and dusty.

On this wilderness-path I’ve learned an awareness of how fragile I am in myself, like a wildflower facing the cold overtures of autumn. I’ve learned how, however hard I try, I can’t make sense of everything: I can’t see or understand or control or fix how the plan of this life is unfolding. I can’t sustain myself or keep my feet walking the dusty path by my own will or strength. Prayer is hard.

On my own, feeling like this, it is easier to walk a different path of my own design. A dream-path which is easier and seemingly lush, where I don’t have to strive hard to do the right thing or seek the God who leads me. I can walk this path and let my heart dull from sensitivity to sensuality, and stop caring about the fact that I cannot see or understand. It’s a path which caters to my own strength – I can walk it on my own.

Yet this is not where my hope or my true life lies. Walking this dream-path is unreal and inauthentic, and something always holds me back from walking down it too far.

As I choose instead to set my gaze on the hard walk through the wilderness, I am still left with the problem of my own wildflower fragility. When I don’t feel like I can see or pray or keep moving forwards, what will sustain me?

In answer to this question, I’ve been learning to turn to God in his Word even when I don’t feel like I’ll be able to see or hear his voice. This is because his truth still holds even when I don’t feel him near; he calls me to seek him even when I cannot see.

I open up his Word, therefore, and seek him. It’s hard, but God is faithful and there has been treasure: precious promises and words of God glittering out to my rough heart which strives to beat for him.

This, for me, brings to life the words of Psalm 103:13-18:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…

On our own, we have the fragility of wildflowers. We will fade and fall away when we try to walk the wilderness path by our own strength.

But God’s Word stands for ever; from everlasting to everlasting he is God. And amazingly, God is not only our Judge but also our Father who has compassion on us and fights for us. This means that even though we are fragile, mortal, made of dust, his love makes us eternal – he is with us from one end of eternity to the other. He graces us with everlasting life. He gives us strength to face cold autumnal difficulty.

So, I sit here amongst the wildflowers and I consider their fragility. Eyes squinting in the low morning light, I turn towards my Father.