GREAT FAITH OFTEN REQUIRES GREAT MEMORY

"But if God wants us to walk through this, then He'll get us through it."

I sat across the table from my father at dinner a few years ago as he said these words, and I don't think I'll ever forget them.  It wasn't the words themselves that made an impression.  I've been speaking "Christianese" for over three decades now, so I know the lingo.  I know that you're supposed to say things like that if you want to look spiritual. What surprised me was the way he said it. 

He didn't say it with a lofty tone of voice, trying to show off his faith the way that a peacock shows off its plumage -- the way we sometimes prance and perform for each other on Sunday mornings.  He didn't say it with the honest determined grit of a believer young in the faith department, trying with all his might to will himself to believe what he knows he ought to know is true (the way that I've been praying a lot lately myself).  No, what was surprising is how nonchalantly he said it.  He didn't even take a dramatic pause.  It was as if he had said the sky is blue or coffee is black.  He just said it, and moved on as if nothing terribly profound or worth remembering had just been said.  It was at that point that I realized just how much my father's faith had grown during his difficult life -- and how far my faith still had to grow.

It seems to me more and more that the call to great faith is the call to great memory.  Throughout Scripture, the great men of faith don't seem to be trusting based on theory, but on past experience of God's trustworthiness.  When Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, I don't think he comforted himself by considering that the very concept of an omnipotent God would include the notion of perfect provision. I think he remembered Jericho.  I think he remembered the crossing of the Jordan River.  I think he remembered the parting of the Red Sea.  I think he remembered the ten plagues. I think he remembered.  When the prophets and the psalmists call upon Israel to trust the Lord, they always tell them to remember.  The God who destroyed the Egyptian army will deliver you from the army camped at your gates.  The God who established the foundations of the earth can surely establish His people in the land which He has promised them.  Remember.

Maybe our faith is so small because our memory is so short.  When fear and anxiety hit, we suddenly forget all of God's past faithfulness.  Or maybe our faith is small because there is nothing to remember.  We don't let God test our faith in small things, so when the larger crises of life hit, we have no comfort on which to draw.  Our prayers are small because they are fueled by theory and not experience.  In theory God can do this, in theory God can do that.  What if we could pray, instead, God has and He will again? Wouldn't that change everything?

As I sat across from my father that night, I saw a grizzled warrior -- the product of more than his fair share of battles.  I felt like I was talking with an old Roman legionnaire -- one who was a little weary and homesick after decades of campaigns,  but one who had in no way lost the fight in him.  I saw someone who had seen too much to believe that the battle couldn't be won, and someone who had learned too much to believe that the battle wasn't worth fighting.  I saw someone who could teach me more about God's promise to provide than a shiny plastic man with a bright smile on the face of his newest best-seller.  I saw someone who could stand in the midst of storms that would topple most men around him.  I saw a man of faith who remembered that God had taken him through similar things before, so that, while it might be unpleasant, God would bring him through again. He wasn't looking forward to the possibility, but there was not even a hint of fear in my father's eyes as he spoke.

One day I hope to have a faith like my father's.  I hope to have a faith that doesn't have to trust in the spotlight or through gritted teeth, but a faith that says, "He'll get us through it," and then continue to eat dinner as if nothing special has just happened.