“The Balancing Act” – First Sunday in Lent, Year C

On my wall there is a Nantucket Weather Glass. It is a kind of barometer, physically showing the rise and fall of the air pressure in the atmosphere. As the barometric pressure rises, the invisible forces “push” the water down the spout back into the glass. As the barometric pressure falls, the water moves back up the spout. It’s a visible sign of the invisible forces around us. Ever since I was very young, I’ve been fascinated by watching the movement of the water, up and down, in the glass.

Sometimes, I wish there were a more visible “sign” of God at work in my life. I get frustrated as I try to understand the “whys” of my situation. I grumble, “Why am I going through this AGAIN??”

I have learned not to let the external forces sway me, though, from where God calls me to live and work. These external forces or circumstances change constantly. My guiding Star is Christ, who in my heart of hearts affirms and encourages me. I have no doubts about God’s care for me, even when I am in the middle of a huge challenge.

In this week’s Scriptures, we are learning more about how walk the fine line between having faith and using reason. Psalm 91 in particular gives us that comforting sense that we are headed in and around with the care and protection of God. And so we are!

From Psalm 91:

The Lord Most High is your fortress.
Run to him for safety,
10 and no terrible disasters will strike you or your home.
11 God will command his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will carry you in their arms,
and you won’t hurt your feet on the stones.
13 You will overpower the strongest lions
and the most deadly snakes.
14 The Lord says,
“If you love me and truly know who I am,
I will rescue you and keep you safe.
15 When you are in trouble, call out to me.
I will answer and be there to protect and honor you.
16 You will live a long life
and see my saving power.

These verses make me feel covered, protected and cherished. The temptation I face is to then feel that I am invincible, able to withstand anything. That I will never suffer misfortune, or pain, or sorrow, or bankruptcy, or illness. And that is not the world I live in…

So what do I do with verses that say, “no one who has faith will be disappointed” (Romans 10:11b) or that God is “generous to everyone who asks for his help” (Rom. 10:12b). What do I think then I read promises of a long life or of being kept safe, and then I experience the ravages of cancer, divorce, homicide or a weather disaster? What if my crops wither? What if I don’t overpower that lion?

The answer is found in the first passage for this Sunday, in Deuteronomy 26:

1 “The Lord is giving you the land, and soon you will conquer it, settle down, and plant crops. And when you begin harvesting each of your crops, the very first things you pick must be put in a basket. Take them to the place where the Lord your God chooses to be worshiped, and tell the priest, “Long ago the Lord our God promised our ancestors that he would give us this land. And today, I thank him for keeping his promise and giving me a share of the land.”

After a generation of wilderness wandering, the people of God are finally brought to their Land. The Land they endured hardship, death and delay to enter. The Land of Promise. The Land which had rightly been theirs, until they had to flee because of famine. The Land they longed for as they were enslaved in Egypt.

Moses led the people, imperfect a leader as there ever was, to its borders. And looking back, together they traced the path of God’s direction and Providence. It’s easy to see as you look back in time. It must have been hard to look ahead and see the challenges of “taking back” their Land. And as God’s people moved forward, they were challenged to give the first fruits of the Land back to God as an offering of worship.

So I am back to this “balancing act” I first spoke of, one of faith and reason, cohabiting. A balancing act that each of us must learn to navigate.

FAITH that we know we have arrived at this point in time with God in control.
FAITH that the Promises God has made to us are true, and will be fulfilled completely.
FAITH that our ultimate “destination” is not a physical Land, but a place we will share with God forever.

REASON to see and respond to our circumstances, rather than going off blindly without consideration or strategy.
REASON to accept our limitations and plan strategically to get around them.
REASON to know the difference between faith and foolishness.

The balance is hard to keep. We hold in tension the reality of life in a broken world with God’s promises of companionship and protection. We fight against the realities that dampen our hopes, that make our faith falter. We wrestle with allowing God full control. We try to clear our own path, instead of waiting and praying. We’re too proud to ask for help, but neither are we to cower and whine and do nothing.

Yes. I struggle with this balance. I vacillate between acting with gross overconfidence or groveling in complete frustration and defeat. As the years go by, I get a little better at this balancing act. I can “read the signs” a little more quickly that a storm is brewing, or that I am in a short period of clear skies. The battle is constant, but God’s promise of companionship and care is as well.

“When you are in trouble, call out to Me.” (Psalm 91:15a)

Yes. And Yes.

Thanks be to God.

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