Living in the lowlands

“Here’s to fragility and recognizing the treasure that can be found living in the lowlands in the place where faith and doubt, courage and fear, surrender and struggle, bravery and timidity and belief and unbelief happily intermingle and coexist quite nicely without needing to cancel one or the other out totally.”

The quote above came from Robin Frost who was empathizing with me after one of last week’s Catches. Robin is one of our regular readers who sends me comments from time to time and I always think when I glance at the name that I am getting an email from a great American dead poet. But that’s Robert. However, Robin waxed poetic in this comment that I think captures the reality of where we all live all the time.

I don’t believe anyone actually lives in the highlands, where faith, courage, surrender, bravery, and belief rule without doubt, fear, struggle, timidity or unbelief. To put on airs, that life can always be like this, is to be dishonest on a number of levels, not the least of these being that it is unbiblical. Paul taught us that his life in the Spirit lives in a body of death that he carries around all the time so that the life of Christ might be seen through his mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:10-11). In other words, you need to see both the highs and lows of experience in order for the reality of faith to be passed on.

I remember growing up close to a family in our church where the dad was a renowned surgeon during the week, a Bible teacher on Sundays and the epitome of optimism all the time. He was always bouncing on the balls of his feet with a booming voice that would always embarrass us kids when our families were at a restaurant together and he would pray before the meal — pretty much taking over every other conversation in the room. However, because his son was one of my best friends, I spent a good deal of time in his home, and at home, I saw another side of this man that made this public persona somewhat dishonest.

The problem with this model of spirituality is that it makes everyone else either draw back into themselves or try to compete, neither of which is going to be very healthy. Because we all live in the lowlands most of the time, we need a realistic model of spirituality that incorporates all these ambiguities of life awhile also providing hope, and it is a relief when we discover that, indeed, this is much closer to the biblical model. We experience the life of the Spirit in the midst of the doubts, struggles and fears of human existence.

Just as Robin empathized with me and was able to bring me encouragement in the lowlands, so we all can encourage one another, because we surrender out of our own struggle, we have courage in spite of our fear, we are brave in the face of our own timidity, we have faith in our doubt and belief in the midst of unbelief. You don’t get this by bouncing on tiptoe and booming your voice; you get this by living your faith out honestly day-by-day in the lowlands of life, being as honest with the questions as we are with the answers.

Did I just bound out of bed this morning, eager to take on whatever challenge the day might bring? No. Did I hit the snooze button twice because I wasn’t ready for it to be Monday yet? Yes. Yet here I am, and there you are, and Christ is here in our midst. And with that in mind, let’s get going!

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9 Responses to Living in the lowlands

  1. gregory krejci says:

    Thank you.

  2. This is one of the reasons I love the “Catch” ! I have friends who have come here who have suffered in lonely times and they have found a safe welcome home. No, I also do not jump up to face everyday, but we keep going! Thank you John, Marti, prayer warriors and all the others who press on to present hope in all formats for all! Love in Christ!

  3. Kris Rudin says:

    As someone who has a chronic illness, and is basically housebound, this resonates very deeply with me. Prior to my illness, I was a hard-core athlete, now I find myself old before my time, struggling even to shower and dress. I have come to learn that God is truly ever-present, and that I need not fear my times of doubt, or sorrow, or weakness. It doesn’t prevent me from knowing God. On the contrary, it is because of these very things that He comes close to me and holds me. I’m a mess, but I’m HIS mess! 🙂

    • jwfisch says:

      Wow. Tough way to learn. Thank you for sharing this. Have you gotten our prayer warriors praying for you? Be sure and do that.

      • Kris Rudin says:

        I will. I guess I never noticed the “Need Prayer” link to the right. Thank you! It is the wondrous prayer of many that keep me going. I didn’t mean to sound so pitiful in my original post. It’s just the reality of my life, though. The REAL reality is God working in me. I don’t know where I’d be without Him. Thanks!

  4. Sandie says:

    Again, your Catch brings to mind a song from the beginning of my walk (sometimes crawl, sometimes getting dragged along) with Jesus. Mountaintop by Amy Grant, echoed the sentiment of Peter after the Transfiguration. He wanted to build a shrine and stay there forever singing Kumbaya…as do we all I think after a ‘mountaintop’ experience. Amy Grant tells us we have to leave – there are people to minister to in the valley below. There’s another crucial reason we need to go back to the valleys…our very lives depend on doing so! Gazing upon a mountaintop scene can be calming experience, but to try to live there would eventually shrivel our essence until we literally died…no food, no oxygen, no water…no us. What is true physically is also true spiritually. On the peaks we can distance ourselves and lie to ourselves and to others – we even try to lie to God.There is raw truth in the valley – sometimes awe-inspiring in its beauty, sometimes awful because of its ugliness – about myself, about others and the world, and about God. All of it is necessary for us to grow and mature as believers. So, for me, because I have to choose truth, living in the valley is not so bad after all. Bless you.

  5. Peter says:

    Living in the Lowlands…A powerful reminder that I shared with my non Catch friends. All were encouraged by its simplicity in honesty. About the time the fallen Angels temporarily abate in their lowly work to discourage me my fallen nature rears its ugly head. And then I remind myself to get dressed..the helmet, the breastplate, shield and sword. Thank you so much.
    Your comrad in arms….Peter

  6. Sally says:

    As always, you approach topics that some of us think about but don’t talk about in public. I know that I have known those who have looked at everything with rose colored glasses. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate looking on the bright side of things but when circumstances were not positive, it was difficult to understand the seemingly absent take on the situation. We all have lowlands in our lives and to benefit from them spiritually, we need to acknowledge that they exist. An honest exchange about how someone journeys through the lowlands with the help of the Holy Spirit, and other people, feels more authentic to me. Thank you for discussing this.

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