I’m so excited about the guest blog posts I’ll be sharing for the next few weeks as I complete my manuscript! This one is from my friend, Melissa Merritt. I’ve had the privilege of photographing her sweet miracle for the first year of life, and have been so BLESSED to witness Melissa’s faith in action. After reading this, I know I will never eat a grapefruit without thinking of FAITH, maybe you won’t either. (Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your heart with us.) Enjoy! Juliet
It’s one of those “Christian” words that we throw around quite a bit. I was raised in the church, so the terms “Praise God,” “Hallelujah,” “Grace,” “Faith,” they just roll off my tongue naturally. And there is a familiar rhythm to hearing them used by others. One would assume, that a 25 year-old raised in the church would have a strong understanding of all of these terms, that she would be able to define in English, Hebrew, and Greek, a concept as fundamental as Faith.
In the spirit of recent posts on vulnerability, I am going to share a little of my journey with you. It is truly a humble journey. The truth is, my whole life, faith was something I dwelt on, but was too scared to truly reflect upon.
Here’s a little background on my “walk” with faith: When I a kid, there were adults in my home church who spoke about “faith” quite strongly, they prayed with expectation of God handing them exactly what they wanted because, “they had faith.” This was intriguing to my 9-year-old mind, because my parents taught me that we are subject to the divine will of God and that we should request and submit to His will in our lives. I was taught that our Father God was not a Santa Claus. I was taught that however disappointing, I should actually give thanks for unanswered prayers. I am grateful that my parents taught me this, because, around that time, one of my relatives died. I prayed for her. My parents had prayed for her. But under the theory of the people in the church – her death could have been prevented if we had a little more faith. “Have faith” became a phrase I always cringed at a little for most of my life, because I was afraid of the great disappointment that follows the, “All you need is Faith” bandwagon.
Another area of discomfort for me was reading a particular verse in Matthew 17:20, where Jesus tells the disciples, “for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you.” Don’t get me wrong, it was encouraging to me that God only required me to have small faith. In 26 years of church every weekend, community service, and mission trips, I felt comfortable that I had earned my mustard seed of faith. But doesn’t it sound like Jesus is telling the disciples to have some faith (even a little) and then anything you ask for you shall receive?
Then there are the miracles Jesus performed on earth – the centurion at whose faith Jesus “marveled.” In Matthew 8: 5, a Centurion comes to Jesus, and tells him of his servant paralyzed at home and Jesus offers to come heal him but the centurion refuses saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soliders under me. And I say go he goes and come or do this and they do it.” This was truly remarkable because the centurion was a Roman, a secular, not Jewish – not awaiting a Savior. Yet, he understood the dominion of God better than even the 12 disciples did! Jesus said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” and He healed the servant.
He told the bleeding woman “by your faith you are healed.”
I read these words in the Bible, and they troubled me… were those “expectant Christians” from my childhood right? Was I praying all wrong?
It wasn’t until a recent season of my life, that I truly spent time reflecting on faith. As it turns out, this growth, came during a season of pain and tribulation. Which, for many of us “Christians,” (you know, the ones who make good decisions and are free from many of the “consequences of sin” that “worldly” people engage in) these seasons are supposed to be nonexistent. We save our money so we can buy nice homes, and drive nice cars. We spend our early adult years praying for Godly spouses we can marry so we can raise happy, Godly families. We eat healthy food so we can live long, healthy lives, and look back on our faithful, happy life and thank God for the counsel of His word. If we are truly honest with ourselves, the only part of the Word that bothers us are the prophecies that the end is coming – the world is ending, and we might not be able to live out our dream lives! We might actually have to go to the real heaven. In my walk, I have found that I have, in essence, traded in the promise of our heavenly mansion for perfecting my earthly home!
I was 25 years old, when my season of tribulation came. At that time, I had been gratefully reaping the benefits of good decisions sown. I had a great career (because I listened to my parents and went to school). I had a healthy marriage (because we abided by God’s design for marriage). And, before long, God was blessing us with a baby. I had no fear that anything bad would happen, because I was healthy and happy. I didn’t eat “unclean meat,” I didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. Oh, and of course, I had faith.
So, I had my baby. She was a gift from God. But, things were far from perfect. The sunshine-y bubble surrounding my life up until that time had popped.
She was sick, she needed healing. This season in my life was not a short one, there were weeks of mostly bad news. As with most times of trouble, there are some blessings. For me, I was blessed to have so many people petitioning God on our behalves. And there truly is power in prayer. I could literally feel the love and support of those praying for us. I’m so grateful for every prayer and every person who lifted us up at that time, but in the trenches of it all, there were times I could not help but slide into this idea that my lack of faith was failing my daughter.
Right in the midst of the painful confusion about our little girl’s future, people with very good hearts and kind intentions encouraged us not to worry but to “have faith.” In the craziness, I just started grabbing for faith like some sort of good luck charm – I claimed faith – I prayed for faith. If I could eat faith, I would have, and I repeatedly asked my husband if this was all somehow my fault.
He wisely directed me to what is now what I consider one of the dearest passages in the Bible. John 9 begins with a story of Jesus passing by a man who was blind from birth. The disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responds (and this is my favorite part), “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
See! I was completely seeing my situation with worldly eyes: do good things to get good things. This is not how God works! In fact, the disciple James wrote the exact opposite, he said, falling into various trials should be all joy! In fact, the testing of our faith produces patience!
News flash: We are not in heaven!
Bad things are going to happen to us, we are subject to the harsh conditions of this sin-full world. But, as God strengthens us through trials we grow in faith – and according to James, we can ask in faith, for wisdom!
After my baby came home from the hospital, every morning I would eat a grapefruit. I developed a ritual, I would slice the fruit in half, carve around the fruit, then force myself to swallow some of the bitter juice. I would then generously cover the whole face of the fruit with a heaping tablespoon full of sugar! I loved watching the sugar form a sweet syrupy substance right there on the face of the grapefruit! Grapefruits are gorgeous; they look like giant oranges with the added bonus of being pink! But, it never ceases to amaze me how sour they are! But… if you sprinkle that sugar on, it’s not only edible, it’s tasty!
As I sat at the table one morning, reflecting on the storm that had rocked my whole world, I just stared at the grapefruit covered in sugar, and said to myself, “That’s faith!
It’s like sugar on grapefruit!”
Sugar does not change the grapefruit to an apple – it just makes it more bearable!
It’s scary to imagine the bad things all the bad things that could happen to us. It’s scary not knowing the trials and tribulations that may test us – the seasons of grapefruits in life we will have to endure. But, if every Christian had perfect lives free from any problems, would we really need faith?
God doesn’t want us to live in fear of harm, He wants us to live by faith. What does that look like? Hebrews 11 gives us the definition of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
For me, faith is realizing that we don’t understand and can’t see everything – it means accepting that there is a divine design, that God has ultimate authority over everything. If we truly had a mustard seed of this type of faith we wouldn’t really go around re-choreographing the geography of earth by relocating mountains, but we would be about His work – and not even a mountain could stand in our way. We would live like the Bible heroes listed in Hebrews 11 who endured trials and tribulations not with the promises of earthly prosperity, but with the promise of a homeland, a God, and a heavenly city.
So, let us not be fair-weather Christians. Let us not turn to the magic faith umbrella, the one you want to pull out at the first sign of trouble. Let us be men and women of faith who praise Him, even in the midst of hurricanes which threaten everything we hold dear. Because, our faith, our promise in things unseen, our promise of a true and perfect heaven, makes even the bitterest trials bearable.
*Grapefruit images: Ami Novak, http://twenty20.com/winter_can_wait
Melissa Merritt was a litigator with a heart for being at home. The Lord granted her the desires of her heart, and today, she shares her heart and her home with her husband (a mighty man of God), her miracle baby, and a Golden Retriever. Relying fully on God, Melissa was able to earn a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Florida, the same weekend she married her best friend. Holding her husband’s hand, morning cuddles with her baby, and coming home from a great trip to a clean house are a few of her favorite things!