For most of my life I lived on what I call the fringes of faith. I was saved, but just saved. I wasn’t committing any of the ‘big sins’, wasn’t skipping Sabbath service to go shopping or having sex with my boyfriend, so in my mind I was fine. I lived my life searching for the line of demarcation between sin and not technically sin, and while most times I was careful not to cross the line, I secretly sought to be as close to it as possible. Because for some reason I thought that was okay – living on the outermost boundary of grace, clinging to salvation so fiercely that redemption and purpose couldn’t even take hold of me.
If faith was an ocean, I wasn’t bone dry on the shore like the ‘big sinners’, but I wasn’t in over my head either. I didn’t abandon my beliefs completely, but I did envy those that seemed to live with such abandon, and passion, and carnal satisfaction. I didn’t rebel outright, but I did secretly, in the recesses of my mind and the corners of my heart.
For years I stayed where my legs were technically wet, but my feet could still feel the sand beneath them. I went in and out with the tide of life – neck deep when I felt particularly condemned, and shin deep when I was doing good on my own and my Bible went unopened for months at a time.
I played in the shallows of religion – between the sandbanks of sin and the sea of faith – almost all my life. And it wasn’t until my world was rocked by confusion, heartbreak, and an incredible battle with depression that I began to question what the point of faith was if life was going to obliterate me anyway.
Yes, I had a crisis of faith. I didn’t question Yahweh’s existence, but I questioned His character, I questioned His heart for me, and I questioned whether or not I wanted to take my chances on the shore.
A few years out from that crisis, my view on the position and purpose of faith is much different.
Faith was a technicality, and I always wanted to know where the gray area was. Which tv shows were technically okay, which music was technically not sinful to listen to, how much nudity and cussing could I withstand in a movie without being too convicted? It was always a play to get away with as much as possible and still technically be saved. I would have taken a percentage, and definitive fraction or line in the sand that clearly communicated the tipping point between still saved and backsliding. And I would have lived on that line if I could have.
I’ve had a few more storms since the one that made me ask those big questions, and I’ve realized that faith can only bear you up if you go deep enough.
The way I decide what to watch and listen to, who to follow on social media, what to take into my soul and spirit through my senses, and where I go for entertainment, who I choose to be in relationship with has less to do with how convicted I am and more to do with what it does for my faith. I know what it’s like to live a flesh led life, I’ve been there and done that. But the problem is no matter who is leading you, you’ll still have spiritual battles. And when the battles come and you realize you haven’t been taking in anything to make your spirit strong, you get pummeled.
You can technically live a relatively long life eating unhealthy half the time, but you probably won’t ever reach your full physical potential. Eating fries every week won’t kill you, but it won’t help you become an Olympic athlete either. You can live an okay life if you’re overweight and slightly sick, but your quality of life would be ultimately less because you chose to settle for, not a weak body, but not a strong one either.
You could technically listen to trap music all week and still cry in worship on the weekend. You could also technically watch porn sometimes and still volunteer at the homeless shelter once a month. You could technically read romance novels every night and ignore your Bible, but still be able to recite all Ten Commandments. But when you’re in a fight for your life, you don’t want something that’s technically faith fighting for you, you want strong faith.
Whether you believe in Yahweh or not, whether you go to church or not, whether you believe what the Bible says or not, I bet you’d agree that life has a way of throwing us all hits we do not see coming. The cancer diagnosis, the lost scholarship, the car accident, the sudden stroke, the lost loved one, the unexpected bankruptcy – life just plain sucks sometimes.
But the purpose of feeding your faith things that have substance and value and starving your flesh isn’t so that you don’t feel guilty in church, it’s so that you can build a faith you can depend on when life is sucking.
When that doctor gives you a diagnosis that’s terrible and the worst thoughts imaginable begin to flood your mind, I promise you you will fight with what’s in your heart. And what’s in your heart is what you’ve been feeding it. You won’t have time to listen to your Bible app when you’re confronted with sudden job loss and a mortgage is looming over your head, and you won’t be able to pause your pain to listen to some encouraging worship music to help you stay afloat.
I’ll testify – I didn’t have time to flip through Scripture and pick the verses that reminded me of how strong I am in Yahweh when depression was wrapping its arms around and whispering crushing lies in my ear every night. I had no defense.
When you’re being destroyed on the battle field, it is not the time to learn how to fight. It’s the time to use the practiced skills you developed in private. It’s the time to let instincts you developed in your down time take over and help you win without thinking.
The reason I feed my spirit with words, and music, and perspective it can use is because I need a faith I can trust when I can’t trust my own mind. I need a faith that rises up from the inside of me when past demons dare confront me and new devils rear their heads. I need the words of a worship song that seeped into my spirit the day before to dominate discouragement when I want to give up. I need the scripture I meditated on day and night last month to come back to me like a breath of fresh air when the arms of sadness reach for me, and I need the Voice of Truth to speak to me when deception attempts to rob me of my peace, joy, and stability with lies of inadequacy and failure.
I need to be able to trust my faith, so I need to feed it quality foods.
Relationship with Yahweh isn’t a game of ‘don’t sin so much that you piss Him off, but sin enough so you stay saved and have fun’. That’s not relationship, that’s a farce. Yahweh is completely disinterested in good behavior for the sake of securing a seat in heaven, and complete interested in involvement in every aspect of your life for the sake of complete transformation and freedom.
Yahshua didn’t die so we could dance more freely in the dusk between light and dark – He came so we could run boldly into the light, as far away from the reaches of darkness as possible. He came so that we could lose the darkness that exists in our souls because of sin in the light that He is.
Faith will not work for you if you don’t feed it. The same way a malnourished body will faith you under pressure is the exact same way a malnourished faith life with fail you. You can’t get a return on something you never invest in, and you cannot attempt to appease conviction with routine acts of religious service once a week and expect to stand tall when life slaps the wind out of you.
You won’t be able to face your darkest fears and defeat your biggest giants if you secretly feed them in the dark. You won’t be able to depend on a faith relationship you never foster.
This isn’t a rant about movies or music or whatever, this is me trying to get you to see that you are what you eat. I’m in a season of life where who I am is constantly being tested, and I have to know that when I’m being squeezed by life, my faith it tough enough to not only hold my insides together, but to push back. That means I have to sew into my faith, invest time and energy into what matters most to me. I have to talk to Yahweh all day every day, and give my spirit the sustenance it needs to withstand the pressure that this season of life is laying on. I need words that live in my soul to pop out when I need them most. I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I am, what is in me, and that because Yahshua lives within me, I can take it.
Faith that fights isn’t a formality or technicality – it’s an intentional decision, a choice to purposefully feed it with spiritual things.
How deep you go will depend on the type of faith you want. Faith that technically saves your soul when you’re dead, or faith that fights for you so you can be free while you’re alive?