The Gifts of Faith, Hope & Love
Our tendency in life is to rely on ourselves.
We feel bad to bother others. We have been taught to be self-reliant, to be smart and to develop resilience because life can be rough.
This school of hardknocks formed us so deeply that even when we come to walk with God, we approach it the same way: in our strength. We count on our ability to study Scripture, to serve, to drum up 'faith', to 'love'... to 'hope' against the odds… and we will grow weary.
Life was never designed like that.
To really live - we need to interrupt this ingrained habit of self-dependence and self-actualisation.
For those of us who responded to God’s offer of new life, we may have forgotten that the prayer we said, commonly known as The Sinner’s Prayer, is really a prayer of relinquishment.
We were so excited when we said the prayer and experienced something new. O, the sense of peace, the joy and newness. But soon enough, we may find that sameness creeps back in. Our lives may not change as much or as quickly as we had hoped. Or sometimes, more issues seem to beset us.
It isn't that we are in the wrong church crowd. It isn't that our Bible knowledge is too weak. It isn't that others are making it way too difficult for us to love them [though all this may have some truth to it]. It is that we have lapsed - back to trusting ourselves to live our lives well, right, good, pure. And, it just cannot be done because firstly, life is a gift.
A gift needs to be received and slowly opened up to be cherished and savoured.
None of us will stop unwrapping this gift because we live on and enter new seasons and life continues to flow.
Secondly, the most precious bits of life - faith, hope and love - are also gifts. We receive them as we slow ourselves enough to.
My neighbour and I share a lot in common. We struggle in our marriages, ask questions about the meaning of life, battle concerns for our children and confront the reality of aging minds and bodies. The difference between us is that at a time in my life, I met Jesus and He is in my life now. Indeed He is my life now. I am still discovering what that means, but I have seen now that because He is the foundation, the steady, my struggles give rise to -
faith - I believe my struggles are purposeful and useful, even though painful
hope - I have seen things change, get better, been startled even!
love - I keep being loved to love better...
Life is a Gift and the Giver unwraps it to reveal precious gems of faith, hope and love - which make life beautiful and purposeful.
Within all of these is an invitation for me and you to live totally different:
as a recipient and not as a rebel or engineer or critic
as rested not wrestling, weary, wounded (and licking my wounds and comparing them with others')
as resurrected not dying, dead or deadened.
In order for us to deny our deeply ingrained habits and reflexes of depending on ourselves, where we tend to live out of fear, hurry and loss, we need to develop new habits. The gifts of Faith, Hope and Love need to become habituated into our lives.
This habit reset isn’t a walk in the park. Afterall, all of us simply want things to go smoothly and go our way, and they often do not. We can crack and crumble during adversity or crises, unless we have received the gifts of faith, hope and love - and worked them into the muscles of our reflexes.
We can develop and train ourselves to respond in faith, hope and love. When they do, we begin to enter the way of Shalom or abundance.
A key to this is to develop self-awareness about our thinking and speech patterns. We often think and speak ourselves into worry, powerlessness and discouragement.
Self-awareness requies us to slow down and observe our thoughts.
When we notice thoughts that hurt or hinder us, we have to habitually replace them with helpful ones.
We need to do this on our own since we are the only ones who know our thoughts. But we also need the company of others, where we dare to share our thoughts and be willing to have someone point out to us another perspective.
For me, I have found Journaling and quiet prayer very powerful for helping me become quickly aware of what is going on internally. I also belong to and build communities where there can be authentic sharing about all kinds of things, from nightmares of life to dreams of a better world. These I have found to be the most powerful ways to develop the muscles and create a new habitus for my life.
What are some ways you can make faith, hope and love more habitual in your life?