In order to arrive at what you are not you must go through the way in which you are not.
~T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
As a form of truth in advertising, I feel obligated to explore how faith works in actual daily practice, not just in theory. My own life of faith has included many surprises that no one warned me about. Of course, if the journey did not include a few potholes, dark stretches, and unexpected detours, we would hardly need faith.
I used to think that everything important in my life—marriage, work, close friends, relationship with God—needed to be in order. One malfunctioning area, like one malfunctioning Windows program on my computer, would cause the entire system to crash. I have since learned to pursue God and lean heavily on his grace even when, especially when, one of the other areas is plummeting toward disaster.
As one who writes and speaks publicly about my faith, I have also learned to accept that I am a "clay vessel" whom God may use at a time when I feel unworthy or hypocritical. I can give a speech or preach a sermon that was authentic and alive to me when I composed it, even though as I deliver it, my mind is replaying an argument I just had or nursing an injury I received from a friend. I can write what I believe to be true, even while painfully aware of my own inability to attain what I urge others toward.
Exercising faith in the present means trusting God to work through the encounter before me despite the background clutter of the rest of my life. As the recovery movement has taught us, our very helplessness drives us to God. An addicted person may discover his or her weakness to be a gift disguised, for that is what presses him daily toward grace—whereas the rest of us try vainly to deny our need. ...