Conversation: Fear’s the First Step of Faith

We’re eating at the table, words mainly, the salty kind, and I never hear the cracking open of the world.

Shalom’s still picking at her salad but the rest of us chew on Hebrews, the eleventh chapter. We each have a Bible, same version, open before us, Scripture handed out from the basket kept at the end of the window seat, from the real bread basket, always full for the taking.

In the lamp light of an incubator down the stairs, a beak taps, taps, taps.

Some meals we read collectively, a chapter in unison, others we each read a verse, chapter circumnavigating the table. Today Farmer Husband suggests we each ponder quietly, the first twelve verses, then jot down impressions in our journals. Then re-read the text to compare our memoried words with the actual text. How well have we engaged, remembered? How well can we carry the Words within us, transfuse them into our veins, live them? I can hear the scritch scratching, smell the neural gear-grinding. We’re ruminating. Transfusing.

I swirl the Words around, wine shocking dead tastebuds:

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”

A shell splinters.

I scrawl it across paper: To please Him, I’ll have to do things that require faith. Not things for which I have the necessary skill, the carefully allotted resources, the well-marked route.

The pen hovers over paper. What are the things that I don’t have the skill set for, the resources for, the route for?

I know those things, like a man knows his demons. I look over at my husband, throat dry.

And the words trip out, disoriented.

The things in my life that require faith are the things that terrify me.”

Children and husband look up from their journals, heads tilted in question. I know I’m supposed to be writing, but the pen’s found bedrock and I shout Eureka. Shout and tremble.

“Doesn’t that verse mean that to please God, I have to do move out into places of fear?” Farmer Husband lays down his pen, pushes his chair back, ready to receive all of me.

“I mean, it clearly says: Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And I hate to say it….” I say it anyways. We’re family and this is the embrace of transparency.

But not much in my life requires faith. I intentionally construct my life that way: do things I know I can do, with means I have, in territory familiar to me. But isn’t God saying that to please Him we need to live in this wild leap of faith?”

I glance down again at that verse printed onto parchment of God’s Word, thin paper, light shining through, right into your soul. “That’s terrifying space.”

I take a deep breath, look him in the eye, and whisper my paraphrase.

“It’s impossible to please God unless I do things I’m afraid of.”

No one says anything.

In the downstairs dark, a beak chips, pokes through a shell.

Joshua turns on the window seat, looks out the window. I look past him, look out across to the soul-canyon of all the fears that ram my heart far up into throat:

  • The fear of (mis)shaping half dozen malleable people, souls soft in hand.
  • Writing.
  • The glare of speaking.
  • The high wire of relationship.
  • The vulnerability of living naked, unmasked.

The brink of it, all of it, dizzying fear, often makes me shrink back.

Truth reaches out to grab hold of me, anchor me: fear offers two routes. Flee or faith. High tail it… or trust.

Is it only faith – bona fide — when we leap out into life with no trace of fear? When we dive into the unknown depths with steely confidence?

Or is faith the thing we fearfully jump into?

What we believe will catch us, hold us?

Like he’s felt along the innards of my soul, felt the vibrations of my questions, Farmer Husband asks, “But what about “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . .”? Are we to have fear if we love God?”

I answer with what I usually have, another question. “Is fear the emotion we push through, breaking out into faith? And fear’s what we feel before our love is entirely perfected — the first stir of love?”

Joshua and Caleb turn back from the window, looking for answers too. I think I’ve found mine.

Fear is the first step through to faith.

Like hurdling through a ring of fire, certain He waits on the other side.” I reiterate, etch it deeper: “

Without stepping into the fear, the place where faith’s necessary, it is impossible to please God.”

Farmer Husband looks around the table, faces looking back at him, looking like him. “So. Are we doing anything at all in our lives that require real faith in God?”

I’m envisioning big things, hard, like loving the unlovable, going on missions to Tibet, sharing the gospel with a neighbor down the road, launching a ministry, adopting an orphan, doing street work … stepping far off the beam out into the rarified air of faith.

But Caleb doesn’t miss a beat. “Waiting for those eggs to hatch.”

His self-designed, home-made incubator’s been at the end of his bed for weeks, a gestating cradle of hope. “I can’t make that happen. It’s a risk and every day I just keep watching and waiting and praying. And I keep checking the temperature and getting up through the night to add water for the humidity. I don’t even know if anything’s going to hatch or if the whole thing’s going to be a miserable failure. Is that faith?” He shrugs his shoulders.

His Farming Father half smiles, understanding.

I smile across the table into this almost man of ours. Acts of faith come in all sizes; perfect fits.

And when I’m clearing dishes afterwards, returning the living bread to the window seat basket, and Caleb blusters into the kitchen with egg in hand, this peep, peep, peeping deafening all our fears, I’m giddy with him, watching this emerging, and I crack open too.

We’ll have to press into our fears, tap along the rim of our terrors, peck into the unknown, and push through our terrors, lunge through them, to step into faith.

I stand with my son and together we watch the long pecking, unsure and tentative, out into the wide expanses.

Lord, where are the places in my life that I live in the wild leap of real faith? Focus me on the fearful places… that’s where we break open into the vastness of You.

Related Post: Be Not Afraid
Photos: Caleb’s act of faith