When Mom Was Right
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6
In the immediate aftermath of losing my job due to my addiction* I had to let my parents know what was happening. I remember sitting on the floor of my garage for some reason, on our old cordless phone, talking to my mother. Without any evidence, she claimed to know that everything was going to work out for good. God can do anything. I wasn’t buying it. Mom, you have no idea how bad this is. I appreciate your confidence, but my marriage and career are over. There’s no fixing that. I’m sure she must have had some doubts, but despite all evidence to the contrary, she insisted that God could use my mess for good. I knew she meant well, but I also knew that she was my mother and that she once thought I was a good singer. I just assumed she’d fallen victim to the naive optimism of a loving, but biased parent.
She was, of course, right. I couldn’t see it back then, but God did work out my disaster for his good. I don’t ever want to go through it again, and I’m not thankful for the pain I caused others, but I am thankful for my addiction and its miserable consequences. Without those experiences, I’d not have learned to live by faith.
Faith is the lesson of today’s passage. In it, God promised Abram a blessing for him and for his descendants, which he said would be as numerous as the stars. If you go back and read the entire passage, you’ll see that Abram had some serious doubts. That all sounds great God, but I’m in my 80s and I don’t have any children. I want to believe, but all the evidence says that your plan is impossible. God promised Abram a son though, and despite all evidence to the contrary, Abram believed, which pleased God very much.
When I was a kid, I thought that faith meant believing a thing so hard that I banished every doubt from my mind – Faith was the absence of doubt. As it turns out though, I can only practice faith when I have doubt. If my life was on a successful trajectory back during that garage conversation with my mom, it would have required no faith for her to believe in my future. She exemplified faith though, because she believed in God’s plan, despite all evidence to the contrary. Faith means believing in God and following him, despite all our doubts.
*I’ve told this story before, but it’s appropriate for today’s passage and it’s worth retelling.