What a drag! I needed to move my kitchen fridge to retrieve something that had fallen behind it. It was a bit of a struggle to pull it out far enough to grab the thing I wanted to recover, but I also saw some things that had disappeared and hadn’t realized were back there. I had to pull the fridge out a bit further to get them with my grabber tool. That accomplished, I needed to put the refrigerator back in place, only it turned stubborn. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t move more than a third of the way back in. It was like trying to move Denali. Tired and achey, I sat down and started to work on the problem in words.
There’s a famous and popular saying from Scripture, “Faith moves mountains,” I thought of as I tried to push the fridge back in place. Regardless the tough situation, that phrase always seems to come up. Somebody will use that phrase, which as a comfort. Yet, I sometimes wonder how it is received by non-Christians, or those who have experienced the traumatic loss of unanswered prayer.
The phrase is derived from Matthew 17: “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” It would be simple to dismiss the verse as patently impossible. Suppose I laid a mustard seed (which isn’t big, but certainly bigger than some seeds I have in my pantry) at the base of a mountain and walked a few feet away. In that case, I probably couldn’t find again it unless I walked back to where I thought I had left it and then searched the area to recover it. If I tossed it over my shoulder and then tried to find it, I might never lay eyes on it again. Plant the seed in the ground, and it will grow into a goodly-sized bush. Practice faith, and like the seed, it will grow. How much? It depends on the effort. Jesus didn’t have gyms and fitness equipment to use for comparison, but I’m sure he might say, “The more work you do with it, the bigger and stronger it will get.”
Suppose I ask someone how much time they put into daily prayer and faith development? I might be (a) laughed at, (b) asked if I were some kind of religious kook; or (c) abandoned very quickly. Maybe one person in fifteen might be willing to engage in conversation on the subject of faith. Probably ten of those would try to control the conversation, telling me about their faith and how it is the “true faith” or “the only way.”
Some denominations actively advise taking direct approaches with perfect strangers. Haven’t most homeowners or apartment dwellers have received strangers at their front doors, offering the “Word of God” and steps towards salvation? Why do these people always show-up on Saturday mornings when I am trying to clean the house after a week of work? Frankly, I have felt the intrusion and posted a “No Solicitors” sign for my front door. The sign didn’t always work, but I suppose it’s all part of the freedom of religion thing.
I admit to having a faith that is by no means mountain-moving size. I have had a lot of prayers that have not been answered, but as often, I realize what I’ve asked for is not what I needed. I showed my faith by asking and being willing to accept due consideration and then a “yea” or “nay,” depending.
I’ve prayed for friends and family with cancer and other debilitating diseases and asked for healing, comfort, and strength for them and their families. I do not believe it is God’s will when something terrible happens. I’ve put a lot of requests in God’s hands, including people I love, and sometimes these people regain their health. Sometimes they die despite my prayers. I don’t think it was because my faith wasn’t as strong as it should have been. There’s also that other saying, “Stuff Happens.” It’s not that God doesn’t care about me, my prayers, or those I’m praying for. It is that there are mountains not meant to be conquered or moved.
After reflecting on my original problem, I paused and returned to my initial challenge. It wasn’t any lighter, but somehow it was more willing to move inches at a time. It still wasn’t a straight shot, but the fridge finally fell back into place. I hadn’t even resorted to asking St. Jude for help. I just put it in God’s hands, did what I could, sat down and thought, went back, and practiced confidence. I had faith, maybe only the size of a sesame seed (smaller than a mustard one), but the task was accomplished.
Thank you, God!
Image: Caribou and Denali, Denali National Park and Preserve (2013). Found at Wikimedia Commons
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, a lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.