Monday, July 14, 2014

I am a mountain

" is not a fire as much as it's a glow; 
a quiet, lovely burning
underneath the snow -- is not a fire as much as it's a glow - 
a steady humble lamp light in the window...
I heard that faith moves mountains.
I know it moves my feet
to follow you.
And maybe I'm a mountain, 
because it's moving me to follow you...

And my faith is not a fire as much as it's a glow,
a little burning ember in my weary soul.
And it's not too much, it's just enough to give me hope.
Because your love moves slow,
yeah, your love moves slow." 

~ from Audrey Assad's song, Slow

* * * * * 

I don't know how old I was when I received my first children's bible, but chances were, I was no more than three or four. As the daughter of not only a pastor, but a Christian bookstore owner, I was never lacking in bibles, Christian literature, Christian music, Christian cartoons, the whole works. And I'm grateful for much of this heritage, for the beautiful trail it laid for my feet and the foundation it set in my heart. But at some point, when I finally hit the wall of questioning my faith and eyes that needed to learn how to see fresh what had become so familiar, it's been hard not to feel that there's anywhere to go but backwards from here. 

I grew up with the notion of daily "quiet times" or devotions, what evangelical Christians refer to as intentional (often structured) time of sitting down to read the bible and pray, often at the beginning of the day. I remember as maybe a ten year old, the excitement of owning my own bible organized so that I could read it daily, the whole bible in one year.  I started off in January with a youthful bang.  Somewhere around February - or Leviticus (whichever came first) - I began to miss days here and there, until April or May rolled around and I was drowning in bible reading to catch up on.  The feeling of failure and discouragement laid heavy on my shoulders, as every day, I felt I was never enough. I was never going to catch up.

Maybe this is the first memory I have of feeling I'd miserably failed God.

Still, somehow I stuck with reading the bible every day, or nearly so, even if it wasn't the entire bible in one year, and continued this way up until my late twenties.  I knew nothing, really, aside from my inability to keep up with the whole readings as a child, except this overall experience that reading the bible came naturally. I found it challenging to relate to anyone who didn't find it easy to read the bible. 

And the truth is, for the last six or so years, I've had the hardest time sitting myself down and reading the bible for more than five minutes at a time. When I do, I'm a ship lost at sea, bobbing in the waves, not sure where north or south is, east or west. At times, I'll catch a glimpse of the sun peeking through the clouds, note its position in the sky, and the light will reorient my eyes to a sense of direction. But this is not every day or even every week. 

Still, I do my best to keep at it.

And I move through too many days with that heaviness threatening its weight across my heart, that I'm not enough, that I'm slipping backwards, as I watch and hear of all these others doing bible studies and digging in deep and writing devotional blog posts; these ones who are living, eating and breathing the word of God; and I quietly turn and walk away. I fight a sense of guilt that I hear his word carried on the wind and in bird songs on my walks, in my breaths and echoes of heartbeats pounding my ears as I'm swimming across the lake, but not so much in the pages of the bible.  I see the word of God acted out on a daily basis in the theater of life and creation, coming alive before my eyes in ways I never imagined. I hear barbed messages whispered throughout the days - You are not passionate enough! Not devoted enough! Not spiritual enough! Not convicted enough! And I know when I listen to them, I duck my head, subconsciously retreating from the one who is not the source of these accusations, and slowly losing sight.

But I'm no longer able to go through the motions. I love the word of God. I believe the word of God. I have grown to know Jesus in a deeper way through the word of God. But I've come to a place where the word of God is written not only in these sacred pages, but even more, this profound mystery etched upon my heart. A place where, without even reading the bible, I know it; it's in me. I read his words scrawled across the pages of the world outside my door and in the very place where I live, in human beings and in all of God's creatures. This place where I tread with some amount of trepidation and uncertainty, but also, with a breath of refreshment filling my lungs when I catch it on the breeze.

And I know, in those moments of great faith, that this different way of walking in my faith is not less than; it's an expansion, a gradual settling into be-ing. I used to think that faith was a fire and being referred to as "on fire for God," a Christian's great success. But now I know, as the words of Audrey Assad's song confess in startling beauty, that "faith is not a fire as much as it's a glow." It's not an overwhelming amount, but it's enough to get me home. To get you home. It's something closer than my skin, so that I sometimes scarcely recognize it's there. And those mountains that need moving by faith? I'm beginning to see that I am one of those mountains, moving, edging - and yes, at times, jumping - home toward Love. 

Linking these words with Unforced Rhythms


  1. Dearest Amber. I always take a deep breath before I start your posts. For I know I need to clear some space inside before I have the appropriate space for the richness of your words. And with this one, I grin to see how similar our minds today. On the way the Bible has always been a part of us, but us each finding ourselves new by it these days. And how grateful I am that it is helping us walk the journey home together during this part of our journeys. I can see your glow, friend. I see your glow.

    1. Oh Beth. I'm grateful for your encouragement, for you seeing the glow that is so hard to see just looking in the mirror. I see it in you, in your words that I know flow from the richness of your life, and I'm grateful, too, for this opportunity to walk part of the journeys together. May we continue to walk toward home, guided by the Love that moves us slow.

  2. It sounds like we grew up much the same, but I quit the daily reading sooner than you, only I was in seminary and then a pastor. Recently I find myself being drawn back, but still it is difficult. I believe that the eyes of my heart need time to heal and change maybe in order to hear God's word anew. Also, that ability to see God in all his words (for creation speaks too) is not a loss, but a gain. And, to play the "Jesus card," Jesus quoted scripture some, but most often he spoke about the world around him and the ways he did and didn't see God reflected in it. I also feel a little adrift at time reading some of the blog posts that are SO vastly different than my own - it reminds me of that world I grew up in and how I don't live there anymore and, of course, as you say so well, that stirs up old feelings. May you find new grace for who you are and all the ways God meets you.

    1. Kelly, thank you... it's a consolation to know I'm not alone in this sense of feeling adrift among words and places that are so different from how I am now but stir those feelings of where I used to be. I have felt, particularly lately, that I do not fit in places I used to. But I really appreciate your reminder here, how Jesus did speak most often of the world around him, and I was thinking on that as I went to work this morning. How part of this move away from reading reading reading scripture is that I have such a strong desire to be able to communicate the essence of what I've read and studied for years without quoting it to people. That, for those who don't crack open a bible, for whatever reasons, would be able to relate to words that speak of God and hope and life and redemption in a language of the world around us, in words and stories they can understand. I gratefully receive this, friend, and speak it back to you: "May you find new grace for who you are and all the ways God meets you."

  3. Amber, I love how you weave these parts of you together -- the past and the today, melding into this new way of seeing the Eternal. As always, you inspire me with the way you see, deeply and with such purpose.
    I also relate to all the not-enoughs and not feeling I really fit in any place with the ways I express my faith experience. (Thank you for how you expressed this struggle.) And yet, this is what I want...not to be boxed in, but to explore this gorgeous gift of a world wild and free, always knowing Home. You are so precious to me.

    1. You don't know how I let out a big, beautiful sigh with these words: "melding into this new way of seeing the Eternal." Oh yes, sweetheart. YES. I treasure you and thank God for the gift of ones like you who get this - this different path, this other way of seeing, this hunger "to explore this gorgeous gift of a world wild and free," this ache not to live boxed in. As always, I am grateful we are walking together, even miles and miles apart. You are my sister.

  4. Beautiful - I understand. You walk a different path than many - different, not less, and wonder-filled. You have been through the Valley, haven't you? And yes, you are the mountain. This is a blessing. Thank you.

    1. Janet, what a gift. In your kind words, I felt like you saw me, and I thank you for that blessing. Now I will hop over to your little slice of the world and read... :-)