“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
– Hebrew 11:1
A CERTAIN FAITH THAT IS HUMBLE
I admire people who carry a certain faith. It is humble and sure. Despite life’s normal up and downs, they carry on unmoved by the tug of the world. They help when it is needed and are carefully respectful, much like the centurion. For some people faith is also their job, and they use this certain, humble faith to perform it well.
I met Gary as I was trying to become a pastor for the Methodist Church, an extraordinarily complicated and fussy process. While there were many rules and steps to becoming a licensed pastor, they were unevenly followed and there was no clear path to achievement. Gary was the district coordinator and was given the difficult task of helping navigate those of us trying to fill the job. For many, after three to five years of study in a Master’s of Divinity program, another three to five years existed of passing through this gauntlet. Gary was our shepherd.
After my first meeting with the Church board, I was left frustrated and stunned. During the meeting I had received many messages about why I wasn’t ready to be a pastor. First, my theology was too “folksy.” When asked what my personal theology was, I had replied, “To love God and love my neighbor.” During my studies, I had found myself attached to this command by Jesus in Matthew [22:36]–40, and it became the cornerstone of my faith. Life and my faith is simpler for me when I view it through loving God and my neighbor. The command is short and to the point, but it keeps me anchored. I built many of my term papers around and on this statement as our purpose for being Christians. My classmates had warned me not to bring it up in my meeting with the ordination board. They would tell me it was too folksy. It was apparently, and one of the board members told me that I must not believe in God.
They also probed me about my business background and questioned, how could a businessperson be faithful? Despite my assurance to them that I was, I never fully got the board to believe I was a serious candidate.
After the meeting, Gary called me, sensing my frustration. He had seen this many times in the past. I didn’t quite fit the image that the board was looking for. I wasn’t like them. I didn’t speak like them. I was too plainspoken and action oriented. They were used to more flowery language and bigger words. Gary knew this and wanted to make sure the church didn’t lose a good candidate, so he counseled me as to what to do next.
In this counseling, I discovered something different in Gary. I discovered a certain and humble man. A man who long ago had given up the pursuit of fame and possessions. His speaking style was quiet and unhurried. He listened closely to what people had to say. We all knew him as a wonderful pastor of a small church.
I kept probing him about his life, to learn more about why he was so certain and humble. I discovered that he had a second job, in which he worked at an addiction clinic. Each morning, he would get up at five and drive to his clinic. There he would prepare the medicine to help those addicted to drugs. He did not judge them; he quietly listened to their lives. Always looking for a way to correct their fractured existence. Looking for any foothold he could find. He didn’t judge them, he helped them.
His mild manner and the certainty of his faith were evident in all he said. He was quiet, unassuming, and caring when he talked to people about their lives. He didn’t want the fame he could have earned elsewhere, he wanted to love God and love his neighbor.
We will never see Gary on a national TV show, nor will he make the news. He isn’t pretty or shiny, nor does he want to be. For me personally, he is a hero, because he cares, listens, and is a humbly certain man of faith.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman