A Gauntlet of Faith

It has been a long while since I’ve seen the movie, but ever since I wrote those posts on the wilderness in May, I’ve been thinking about that scene in Last of the Mohicans when Hawkeye is trying to save his companions who have been captured. He enters the village and has to pass a gauntlet of warriors in order to make it to where Cora and Heyward are being held, their lives hanging in the balance during a hasty negotiation between one wronged native and the village leader. Those details aren’t particularly what I was thinking of, so forget those details if you’d like.

What I was thinking of was Hawkeye’s journey from the outside into the middle, to his goal. It came to mind because after those posts I got to thinking how it might sound like I was extolling my own virtues or suggesting some obvious and easy path to spiritual maturity. Like I was saying, “Just walk to God, and you’ll be set.”

There’s a lot of that kind of sentiment, after all, in the church and in religious settings of any kind. Just put it before the cross. Just let go of that habit or hangup. Just read your Bible. Just be a good person. Just do this, just do that. Just be mature and always in tune with God’s will for your life.

That’s all. Easy stuff. Right?

Only it’s not. Not for me. Maybe others have had moments in which they wake up one morning, or hear a good sermon, and go about the rest of their life in joyous bliss, no longer making any mistakes or running into walls.

That’s not my experience at all. And I don’t want to leave thoughts on turning to God or making one’s way through the wilderness sounding like it’s yet another “just…”

Because there’s no simple way. There’s hard decisions. There’s moments of doubt. There’s a lot of falling down and going in circles and even falling back. Maybe I lack the discipline other spiritual giants might have. But I think I’m in the majority, so maybe my experiences are worth sharing.

When I was in college, a sophomore, I started reading a lot of John Wesley. John Wesley is famous for his bit on sanctification, that grand word that is used in a lot of ways but mostly means you becoming more like the person God intended you to be. The sanctified person, or the person on the road of sanctification, becomes more in tune with God, in both thought and action.

Ah, I said, that’s the life for me. I did a lot of what Wesley did: fasting — praying — studying. Only that spark to do wasn’t followed by any joy or peace or progress. My life verse became “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Not because I understood it, because I did not. I understood parts, that to die is gain because that means eternity with God, and I could kind of explain the first phrase, or at least try to explain it in the ways that a commentary might help me.

But I couldn’t say that first part, not truly from my depths. So, being young and ignorant, I prayed, “Teach me God to understand what ‘to live is Christ’ means.” I followed this with, “Teach me God to be able to say this truly from my own heart.”

He did and he is, because while I understand more than I did then, I still struggle with what it means to truly say from my deepest self. I’m closer, but I’m not there.

And thinking of the process over the years, the process of me learning in the process of God’s Spirit teaching, I think about that gauntlet scene in Last of the Mohicans. last of the mohicansThe path to this center has been, for me, one of getting gouged, hit, stabbed, sliced, tripped.

I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen, I’ve winced, I’ve come very close to losing heart entirely. It wasn’t any kind of virtue or purity that allows me to write those posts below.

It’s more of a doggedness to press on despite myself. When I fall, I get back up. When I forget, I find someone to help me remember. When I am beaten, I don’t give up. I have gone through seasons where the pain of life seems so severe that I am numbed.

And to that “to live is Christ” verse, I’ve long learned to add, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

No matter what, I’ve learned, don’t let guilt, or mistakes, or other people, or their guilt or their mistakes, or their ignorance, or their judgmentalism, or their false spirituality, or immaturity get in the way. Don’t let sin or frustration or doubt or abounding troubles get in the way. Forget what is behind, and strain towards what is ahead. This might even have to be the call several times a day.

The spiritual life, for me, has been a long slog through dangerous terrain. I’ve been beaten up, but I’ve also become better. That’s probably why I’m still reading Wesley. Because he didn’t say all was easy, he said there’s someone more to be, that person that God intends us to be.

I think this comes out of the testimony of Scripture and I see it as the constant challenge, no matter what excuses or frustrations might impede my progress today or tomorrow.

Because, I testify that straining toward is something the Spirit honors, and the Spirit reaches out, so that even as the lessons seem to continue on and on and on, I can look back and see where I’ve come from and realize I’m at heights I couldn’t imagine before (even as I look ahead and see heights before me that seem impossible to attain).

This entry was posted in 500, personal, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Gauntlet of Faith

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *