Contemplative Life

Maintaining a Margin of Faith

Margin. That’s what I like to call it. A margin of faith. For me, one of the great challenges and opportunities we have in following Jesus is in maintaining a margin of faith in our lives. Where in our lives are we required to exercise faith? Where in our lives are we engaged in activities, responsibilities, even relationships that require more than self-sufficiency? As a priest, I have been engaged in many conversations with people who are in job transitions and are praying for guidance as to which offer to accept or career path to take. I find it helpful to ask the question, “Which job could I do in my own capabilities and strength and which job would require my daily dependence on Christ?” There may not be an obvious answer every time, but where there is an option that would set us up to be walking more by faith and not by sight, I believe we should pursue that option.

As a Coracle community of faith walking together, my prayer would be that we would welcome the faith margin in our lives. Even, dare I say, invite the opportunity for God to place us in environments and situations where we must lean on Him. The purpose, of course, is not for the sheer adventure of it but so that the Good Shepherd may guide us into His paths of righteousness. Dying to self, as a biblical concept, is never for the sole purpose of creating an empty cavity within us, but in order that the Holy Spirit make work more effectively and completely through us.

By inviting this margin of faith into our planning and choices, we are also welcoming mystery. To walk by faith and not by sight necessitates that we do not always cognitively understand how God is going to accomplish something through us. The mysterious ways of God invite us to release our grip of control on the world around us and rest in Him. In our current cultural context, saying ‘I don’t know’ is rarely rewarded, yet the Bible encourages us to admit just that! One of my life verses is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight”. The writer of Proverbs helpfully implores us not to lean on our own understanding but in our confessed ignorance acknowledge the One who does know all. Where have we been leaning too much on our own understanding? Have we been requiring from God that he divulge his plans before we will step out in obedience? Is He calling us to embrace the mystery of His will with joy? Is He inviting us to trust our Abba who has the everlasting perspective of His Kingdom?

Henri Nouwen explains that when God is guiding us He rarely shines a high beam on the path ahead. More often than not, He shines just enough light to see the next stone upon which to place our feet. My prayer is that when God shows us that next stone we will have margin enough to say in faith, “Yes, Jesus. Where you lead, I will follow.”

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