The Wilderness of Certainty

Tightrope walkerScripture Text:  Ephesians 2: 8-10


8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.


See, we’ve really figured this out. We think if we get good grades, we’ll pass the course. If we do a good job, we’ll get a promotion. If we pay our dues, we’ll be rewarded. If we’re good, we’ll end up in the good seats in God’s Kingdom. We have it figured out. But this…what do you mean it’s not our doing? We’ve been working so hard. After all, there are good people and bad people. There are believers and non-believers (and maybe a few unbelievers). But we have tried so hard. Oh, we’ve messed up a time or two. We’ve ignored poverty. We’ve allowed racism and prejudice to exist even today. We’ve gotten behind those who can get us further, can give us what we desire. We’ve been mean, no, really, really mean to some that did not deserve it. But, for the most part, we follow the “Big Ten” and we try our best to be on our best God-behavior and, after all, we’re not bad “them”. And so we wait and hope that it will all be enough for God to swoop in and save us.


Is that what that says? Is that what any of it means? And what do we do with “it’s not our doing”? Of course it’s our doing. If we’re good, God will save us; if we’re bad, well we just won’t think about that. And now we find out that it’s a gift. Whew! Gifts from God tend to be very unpredictable. Gifts from God are not always what we imagined, not always what we would have put on our wish list. Gifts from God are sometimes downright dangerous business. The truth is, we see now that what we do, how good we act, how much better we are than anyone else is not what God had in mind. We are saved, yes, but through faith. Grace saves us through faith.


Don’t you hate it when that happens? It kind of puts everyone on the same level. After all, grace is undeserved, unmerited, unmeasured, and undefined. Grace is God’s movement in our life. God has been known to just hand out grace at will! So, when do we get saved? When do we get the t-shirt? When does God finally, once and for all, check us off the big God list so that we know that we’re “in”? You know, wandering in this wilderness would be a whole lot better if we knew how it was all going to turn out.


The problem is that Grace is not a one-time shot. Grace happens over and over and over again in our lives. Doors are continually opening for us and some are closing this very moment so that we will turn toward the open one. Grace is not a place or a time or a particular window in our lives. Grace is God’s way of journeying with us, handing us God’s hand over and over as God pushes us or pulls us or propels us or welcomes us into being. Grace is a process. Salvation is a process. We are never saved; we are always being saved. Salvation is never past tense, nor is grace.


Perhaps this wilderness comes about because we are so certain of things. Certainty is a dangerous thing. Certainty closes us off. We check off our boxes and we go on to the next thing. Grace does not give us certainty; grace gives us assurance enough to keep walking. Perhaps certainty, itself, is a wilderness. Perhaps it is a wilderness that we didn’t even recognize, a way that shuts us off to God, that makes us turn to ourselves, that closes our minds and our hearts to the Grace that God continually sows into our lives. Perhaps this Lenten season is a wilderness that moves us out of the wilderness of certainty, that walks us through a wilderness that is actually going somewhere, that moves us to a place where we can touch and feel and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we do not know and so must continue journeying on through the doors that Grace opens.


Certainty is missing the point entirely. (Ann Lamott in “Plan B:  Further Thoughts on Faith”)


FOR TODAY:  Let go of certainty.  Follow Grace.  Let the wilderness lead you where God is leading you.


Grace and Peace,


3 thoughts on “The Wilderness of Certainty

  1. I am still with you Shelli. In fact your use of the wilderness metaphor has me interested in St.Anthony and the desert fathers and mothers.


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