Wild Faith, by Rev. Gordon Tubbs
WHEN SHIT HITS THE FAN
Life can be overwhelming sometimes. We try to comfort ourselves by sticking to our routines, and making contingency plans and preparing for worst-case scenarios, but the reality is that there are forces in this world that are beyond our control. We cannot personally influence what happens on Wall Street, or in the White House, or at overseas war zones, or even locally when it comes to organized crime, or even personally when it comes to family drama and trauma.
When the proverbial shit hits the fan, it is easy to bug out and escape a difficult situation, but most of the crises we deal with on a daily basis require us to dig in. Case in point: there is no amount of money in your 401(k) or IRA that can help you deal with the loss of a loved one. None. There is no tool you can keep in your vehicle that can help somebody overcome an addiction, or a negative behavior. We have to tap into a different kind of force to give us a sense of meaning, purpose, and value; and power to face what life throws our way.
The good folks at Alcoholics Anonymous call this different kind of force their Higher Power. For many this is God, for others it is Love, or Logic, or the Cosmos. I think we all recognize that it is the same thing, we just have our different ways of describing and tapping into a spiritual force that gives us a sense of strength that goes beyond the concrete reality we can see and touch.
As a Christian pastor, I have had many conversations with folks who struggle with kindling their faith or sustaining it. I have been asked if God exists, why doesn’t God just make himself known to me in some obvious way? Where is the evidence? Often, I have shared a simple response: you need to discover God in the wild.
Figuratively speaking, God is not something or somebody you can just put in a box, package up, and ship to a doorstep. The spiritual force we associate with our Higher Power is a lot like an idea, such as freedom or justice or beauty. You cannot box up freedom and deliver it as though it were a package. Well... unless you’re America dropping a laser-guided bomb, am I right? Kidding. =)
But in all seriousness, when you are thinking about God, you gotta think bigger than you have ever thought before. The only way to reach out to God is to step outside of the box you have put yourself in. By box I mean your comfort zone - the routines and schemes that you rely on to keep life easy, predictable, and simple.
Once you do this, you will hopefully see the world as it really is: an anxious mess that is hard, unpredictable, and complex. Welcome to the wild. The land where our ancestors dwelled. The land where our strength as human beings was forged, and where we became the alpha predators of Earth. This is where you can discover God.
EMBRACE THE WILDERNESS
Human beings were not always civilized. We did not have words like urban or metro or rural or neighborhood. We had caves, mountains, forests, jungles, deserts, brush, and fields. To survive in the wilderness, our ancestors built primitive shelters out of logs or tree branches, or mud bricks, or used animal hides for tents. But these shelters were just temporary objects to give us the illusion of security. They were routinely damaged and destroyed by the elements. Real security was not obtained by the shelters and weapons we crafted, but rather in our relationships, which were based on trust. The tribes, clans, and city-states of our ancestors were the embodiment of trusting one another. It was this trust that allowed us to thrive in the wilderness, and eventually become civilized.
The biblical (Greek) word for trust is pistis, which has been translated to faith in English. So when we trust in something, it means that we have faith in it, that we rely on it for whatever reason. Once you step outside of your comfort zone and into the wilderness, I think you are going to eventually discover what you personally have the most faith in. You are going to find that spark that lights the fire within you. Whatever that spark is for you, I believe it to be a gift from the Higher Power. But you have to embrace the wilderness in order to discover it. It’s not going to introduce itself to you on Saturday morning while you’re sipping your bulletproof coffee.
For this reason, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus ventured into the wilderness at a pivotal time during his ministry. In the Gospel of Matthew, the fourth chapter records this story. Although it is light on details, it is heavy in significance. It is said that Jesus went into the wilderness in order to be tested by the Devil. Jesus didn’t go into the city, or to a farm, or to the beach. No. He went into the wilderness. And it was there where the Gospel records him being tempted, and he responded to each temptation by quoting scripture – God’s Word. What happens next? Well, Jesus comes back from the wilderness and begins preaching his greatest sermon: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
Just in case things aren’t clear, let me reiterate. Jesus stepped outside of his comfort zone and into the wilderness. While there, he tapped into his Higher Power (which in his case was his own Father and the Bible). Afterwards, he unleashed this power into the world by preaching and teaching others about a kind of faith that could transform their lives - a wild faith - a faith that is bold, adventurous, powerful, and yet full of grace, hope, and love. If this is a kind of faith you have been looking for your whole life but just haven’t found it yet, then step into the wild. Get out there and reach for it.
About the author:
Rev. Gordon Tubbs is an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently serving as an Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at First Presbyterian Church of Greenwood, South Carolina. Gordon is also a Navy veteran, having served 5 years on active duty on submarines, and 6 years in the reserves in the intelligence community. As a husband and father, Gordon enjoys spending time with his wife Brett and son John. You can read more from him at his personal blog at https://gordontubbs.medium.com