“It has pleased Thee to withhold from me a perfect knowledge; therefore deny me not the grace of faith by which I may lay hold of things unseen.” A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.
I love this phrase: grace of faith. I love that it has meaning to me because of personal experience, and I love that it is here in my morning time to remind me that I am not alone in need and facing what feels like fear of fear (future events appearing real).
Since my sister passed away earlier this year I have noticed that a new line of fears have emerged and teased for my attention. I’ve noticed that in June and July, five or six months before the holidays, I am afraid of what my first Christmas will look like without Mom and Dad and Sis. I’m afraid of being suddenly struck with a new and debilitating discovery that all the farmhouses and their holdings of family Bibles and 8mm film canisters are gone – disappeared – lost and no longer a two hour plane trip away. And I’m surprised by how intensely I fear losing Les; what would I do, how could I survive if something were to happen to my best friend, my husband, my only* remaining family?
Without too much resistance or procrastination, I mentioned these recent fear-based distractions to my friend. She knows me well; she holds my story in trust with an objectivity that I can not recall or see. She listened, nodded, and asked: are these fears the kind that can stay on the shelf? “You know”, she continued, “the kind that are there, always present, but reserved for the most well-grounded, prayed-up times, and the ones that can usually be kept separate from daily thoughts or influence.” What I’ll call “shelf-fears”.
What a great question.
She also suggested that I have already come through what I had imagined would kill me, and I had in fact survived with an even greater faith. She went on to tell me that there is no reason to believe any future event would be met with any less of God’s strength and love as has carried me before.
What a great reminder of trust.
With these tools of being heard and seen, and in the light of love, I can afford to examine and determine which ones are in my life for a purpose of being noticed and possibly resolved today, or of a nature that I can afford to notice but leave on the shelf? And I can look back to my own past experiences of how God can re-shape fears into blessings with surprisingly positive outcomes.
So, I can’t help but wonder that in God’s perfect knowledge this Christmas may also hold a particular beautiful bit of Grace. This passage, these questions to look deeper into the nature and limits of my fears, reminds me how I know that God can re-shape fears to blessings and set my feet back on solid ground and trust – at least for the moment. And I can be in the day, this day. This moment is where I can put my fears back onto the shelf and call to memory my own experiences of Grace of Faith. And that too is Grace.
*’only’ is not exactly true as I have my wonderful in-laws and cousins, but as many of us know, fears are not always rational nor accurate.