In the Middle

“Alice wasn’t looking for wonderland when she fell through the looking glass.” –John Eldridge

James challenges the definition of faith in James 2:18 saying, “Show me your faith without actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions.” I’ve always believed that God was looking out for me, but living abroad in 2017 forced me to test it. And what I learned was that the faith and the action are intertwined. They need each other. You must believe in order to act, and when you act, you learn to believe.

One lesson I learned about faith last year came on a goat farm in Albania. My buddy, Matt, and I had been back packing southeast Europe for about 5 weeks at this point. We hadn’t planned to go to Albania but a cheap bus ticket made it a good deal (sometimes a lesson in faith is just going with it and having no set plan.) We found ourselves in Shkoder, Albania surrounded by mosques and biking through rush hour traffic that consisted of taxis side by side with donkey carts. The receptionist at our hostel sold us a tour. We didn’t really didn’t understand what it was a tour of, but it fit with our “just go with it” mentality of the trip so far.

The next morning, a 15 passenger van picked us up at 6am. There were 7 of us in the van. Our driver (who spoke very little English) took us about an hour outside of town. As we snaked over mountain passes, it was clear these dirt roads were not meant for 15 passenger vans. Our journey ended by plunging into a tunnel; inside the only light came from the one working headlight of the van. On the other side of the tunnel we found ourselves at a cliff. It was at that point that the driver got out of the van and disappeared, leaving us on the edge of the canyon.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “Adventure is by its nature a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.” Isn’t this true of life too? We don’t always understand what we are signing up for. College, careers, relationships might be easier to navigate if we knew all the details. But we go for it, and find ourselves plunged into all kinds of adventures.

The day in Albania got weirder before it got better. When our driver returned, we were loaded onto a boat that was constructed from a VW bus welded to a motor boat. Our driver stayed with the van as the captain of the bus-boat took us down the canyon and dropped us 20 minutes downstream and across the river from where the van had been. The boat then left us. It was at that point that a friendly goat farmer showed up. Speaking very little English, he took us to his farm, showed us his vegetable garden, toured us around the canyon on his motor boat, fed us goat for lunch, let us watch MTV, and returned us to the canyon just in time to be picked up by the bus-boat for the return journey.

Sometimes a lesson in faith is just going with it and having no set plan. But often, we have plans. And when those plans fall apart, having faith can be more challenging.

And that’s where the action comes in. If you stopped the story in the morning on the edge of the canyon, it was chaos. If you stopped the story when the boat left us on the river bank, it was hopeless. If you stopped the story when the farmer showed up, it was absurd. But by the end, it was an incredible tour and an unforgettably unique experience.

And that’s what God does. He shows up in the moments of chaos, hopelessness, and absurdity. From Eden to the crucifixion, every story gets a happy ending. Noah on the arc, Abraham on the mountain top,

Moses in exile, Jonah in the whale, Jesus on the cross, and everyone in between, they all pushed through the chaos, hopelessness, and absurdity. When their plans fell apart, their actions held their faith together to see their adventure through to the end. And that’s the challenge of James 2:18; it is one thing to believe it will be okay, but true faith keeps going until it is.

May 2018 give us opportunities to renew our faith by putting it into action.

“Everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” –John Lennon

Zachary Herzog

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