Today, the church celebrates St Stephen, martyr. Well, I say celebrate – what we usually do is forget St Stephen, Martry, since he has the bad luck of having a feast day the day after Christmas. Bad PR dude – get yourself some turkey!
It’s got me thinking though. I mean, Stephen basically got martyred for telling the Sanhedrin where to go. He was loud and proud about his faith, and he paid the ultimate cost. I’ve been reading recently a biography of the amazing Helen Roseveare, who served 20 years as a missionary in the Congo. Though raped and imprisioned, she chose to give her life to the people she cared about, training up hundreds of medical staff to serve their people.
I’ve got to admit, I’m not sure I’d do the same. My child is Isaac, and I’ve wondered before whether I could make the same sacrifice as Abraham was willing to with his son. Not that I’ll ever be called on it, but if God really and truly wanted me to put Him above Isaac? Not convinced it’d happen. Not always sure I’d put my sleep above God, to be honest – and as for chocolate…In fact, the vast majority of the time, I’m pretty convicned that if Jesus were to ask me, a la Peter “Lizzi, do you truly love me?” my answer would have to be – “um. Sometimes.” A ringing declaration of faith it ain’t.
I don’t have the faith I used to have. I can’t believe in it all just because that’s what I’ve been told anymore. I pray, but I don’t have total faith God will answer (with a yes, no, or wait – which frankly makes God sound like a set of traffic lights). Christmas is awesome, the birth of God with us, Emmanuel – but sometimes I wonder how we can suggest God is with us, when it seems like he’s pretty bloody far away for those suffering ebola, or mourning the death of the tsnami victims, or struggling to find food to feed their kids. God might be with us, but why doesn’t He – well, just do more?
I’m not likely to know the answer to this anytime before heaven. But recently I’ve been coming to the conclusion that it’s ok. Because faith that questions, faith that doubts – well, that’s true faith. Lobotomised Christianity isn’t appealing, and it doesn’t take much effort. Faith in the darkness – that’s the hard part.
Emmanuel. God with us. I do still believe it. But I’ve realised that my vision is pretty damned clouded. God might be with us, but I’m looking at him through a pair of incredibly mucky specs – looking “through a glass darkly”, in fact. Perhaps for me at the moment, faith is about clinging to the hope that the child born in poverty and terror in a smelly stable really does get it. And one day – one day, I might too.
I’m no Stephen. I’m hoping never to be stoned – or indeed, murdered in any other way. It’s a bit messy, and I’d rather be reading. But Christmas does make me want to commit to loving Him more. I love Him sometimes – I believe in Him sometimes – and that’s ok. Because God can take that and use it and honour it. And one day, out of the tiny offering I give him, He’ll make something marvellous.