by Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio.
There have not been many times in my life when I have been called stubborn. As I sit and comb through my memories, I recall plenty of claims of "feisty", "intense", or "weird", but stubbornness has not been a prominent descriptor (at least not to my face). More often than not, my bark is a lot worse than my bite and, though I can sling rhetoric with the best of them, I tend to be a pushover.
For example, I have a tendency of getting really worked up about things. Whether it's a social justice issue or a simple, daily matter of principle, if I perceive that something is amiss I rage in my own mind and in my friends' ears without end. If it's a safe space, I am happy to hop on soap boxes. However, as soon as the rubber hits the road and I find myself in a position to speak truth to power, I find myself bending and sugar coating. What once felt massive begins to shrink in the face of opposition, present or potential, and I end up saying, "Well, it’s not that important anyway, I guess…"
Some days, I am proud of this. I am proud of the fact that I know when something is not a hill worth dying upon. I am flexible and open to compromise and I can often see the many different sides of any given scenario.
More often than not, however, I wish I was just a little bit more stubborn. I want to be a woman of integrity whose stomach doesn’t roil when it comes time to stand my ground. I want to be so confident in my own skin, in my own mind and heart, that when any of those things which I hold dear are questioned, I will not be blown over. I want to be a little more stubborn. I'm working on it.
And, as in all areas of growth, God is working on it with me. I had a conversation with some friends this past week about how hard it can be to hold on to our faith when the world is swirling around us. 2020 has not made it easy to follow Jesus. It seems as though the enemy is fighting really hard to worm his way into our minds and hearts and leave nothing but hopelessness behind. While some days are worse than others, and some definitely have it worse than I do, this has been and continues to be a battle.
It would seem, however, that my faith is the one area of my life in which I absolutely refuse to be anything but stubborn. I am not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but Jesus has become such a deeply ingrained part of me that when my trust in Him is hanging on by a thread, I am able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to wrap that thread around my finger as a reminder that God has been and continues to be good. Despite fear, anxiety, doubt, and sadness, I could not leave the Lord if I tried. God is oxygen.
These musings on stubborn faith led me to the Psalms. In fact, it led me to my favorite Psalm and life passage, chapter 27. It is a pericope that holds declarations of faith in what God will do. The Psalmist speaks to and of the Lord with boldness and, despite enemies rising against them, the chapter ends with verses 13 and 14, two of my favorites in all of Scripture:
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Here is the confidence I seek: no matter what comes, no matter how many 2020's I live through, I want to remain unshakably sure that I will see the goodness of the Lord right here, right now, in this life. I want faith to wait and be strong and take heart, because God is always the friend I have known both in the valley and on the mountain.
I want my faith to be more and more and more stubborn every day.
Now, stubbornness often has a negative connotation, and for good reason. It can make us belligerent and closed-minded and unable to hear differing perspectives. This is not the kind of stubbornness that glorifies God. It walls us off from our neighbors and from growth as opposed to opening us up to the hard task of remaining still while we learn to give and receive love from a Holy Parent who we do not always understand.
The kind of stubbornness that I see in this Psalm, and which I desire for myself, is the brand which refuses to let go of all the good even when staring into the glassy-eyed glare of the bad. This stubbornness empowers us to declare things that we know to be true even if they don't feel true. It gives us the assurance that we need not be pushovers and bend to fear mongering in a fallen world, but rather holds us steady, come what may.
So how do we do this? I'm still learning, but I think there's something to be said for tenacious refusal, for speaking life with quivering voices when death crouches nearby, for digging in our heels when the soil starts to shift. So we must choose to be stubborn. And trust God to do the rest.
I believe that learning to have this kind of faith will be a journey that lasts throughout the entirety of earthly discipleship, but thankfully we have an anchor, hope, given to us. It is anything but flimsy. And not only that, we have one another. Encourage this brand of stubbornness in community. This, too, will not falter.
Now, may the Lord of peace fill you with such confidence in His goodness, in His unwavering God-ness, that, when the days of trouble come, you may be able to shout with all the capacity of human lungs and speech, "I have stubborn faith!" Be strong, take heart, wait for the Lord.
Cross-Posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"