The Road to Bad Faith 3: Isolate Yourself

The road to Bad Faith is a road best travelled alone. Isolating yourself from friends and family will mean you will lack support when your faith hits crises.

Imagine for a moment you are on a small boat sailing across the sea. You are alone in your little boat, and the sky is a beautiful blue and the sea is flat as glass. Despite this, you begin to worry about the journey ahead. You know that you may encounter storms where the waves, so much larger than your tiny boat, may capsize you into the unforgiving deep.

You turn and see something large approaching your small vessel. It’s a large ship full of people. It dwarfs your minuscule boat, with its lifeboats being even bigger than your current vessel. It has multiple sails, rigging and any other paraphernalia one might need on an ocean voyage. There are people hard at work on different tasks; repairing sails, mending holes, scrubbing the decks, navigating and cooking the food. They are all working together as a team, working with the sole purpose of reaching their destination. One of the people tosses you a rope and beckons you aboard. They want you to leave your boat and come and join theirs.


Our faith journey often feels like sailing across a wide sea. We know what we want our destination to be, even though we cannot see land on the horizon. We technically have all the tools we need; Gods word as food, and the Bible to act as navigation. But we need others to help us get there. Being part of a larger crew grants you access to skills and support you may need; there may be a better navigator, rigger, cook, helmsman who can help you on your way.

But you want to take the road to bad faith. And the best way to do that is to do that alone. Friends with the same goal may motivate you to continue the journey with them. They may be able to fish you out if you fall overboard. Nope. You want to forge this journey alone. You don’t need anyone else’s help or guidance. Friends are merely a distraction on the road to bad faith.

Loneliness and Folly

Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice.
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭MSG‬‬

The book of proverbs is all about wisdom. Wisdom is defined by Timothy Keller as the ability to navigate the complex realities of life. There is no single solution for every problem, and wisdom is knowing what the best solution to use is and what’s the best way to use it.

Having friends allows you to broaden your perspective and therefore make you wiser. If you only had your own prior experiences from which to build your responses, you would have a very limited pool from which to build responses to situations. Friends can provide alternative perspectives which would help you navigate your world.

Which is why, traveller, you must journey alone. Foolishness, not wisdom, is a goal upon which you must set your sights. Making foolish decisions will help you to slowly destroy your life, and friends will merely get in the way; they may try and stop you doing something stupid or encourage you to do something meaningful and useful with your time. They will only be a hindrance.

Cutting your lifelines

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2:43-45‬ ‭MSG‬‬

In Acts 2, we read about the first churches set up by the disciples in the wake of Jesus’ ascension to heaven. We can see in these verses that the early church members provided a support network for one another, so that if any of them needed something, they could be provided for by others. In other places as well, people reached out to one another, especially to Jesus, and received help for their needs.

You’re support network should be as minimal as possible, perhaps even non-existent. You don’t need anyone else to help you! You’re an independent sort who isn’t pathetic enough to need assistance from someone else! If the sea you’re sailing on is flat, assume it will always remain so. When life is good you need less support. So assume that your life will remain on a smooth trajectory and that you will never need help from anyone else.

Cutting your lifelines like this also has the benefit of not having the inconvenience of having to help others. If they don’t help you, you don’t have to help them. Simple. But once the storms hit, and you’re in danger of capsizing, you will be so far along your path away from friendship, you won’t feel comfortable sending up a flare for rescue. It would be too awkward. You drown, not because others refuse to act, but because you refuse to call for help.


You look up into the face of all the people on the boat. They are smiling, holding out their hands for you to take and climb aboard. Your face hardens, and you cut the line mooring your boat to theirs. They’re expressions sadden as you drift away, but you don’t care. You don’t need anyone else. Your life is good just the way it is. Just try to ignore the black clouds rolling over the horizon.

Love and Vulnerability: Masks

“…We refuse to wear masks and play games…”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

As discussed in the previous post, being able to love sometimes requires us to be spiritually naked with one another, to reveal ourselves to one another so we can be loved for who we truly are. But that’s not what we always do.

What’s your mask

I don’t know about you, but I wear a lot of different masks.

Not real masks mind you. But masks that allow me to hide who I really am from others. They allow me to present an image to the world that paints me favourable light. Whether it’s a smile when I feel sad, confidence when I feel anxious, or righteousness when I do wrong, I have at various times worn all these masks.

Billy Joel called them the faces of the stranger. It’s a song all about wearing different faces and how they make us feel good. We all do it. Masks are convenient because they allow us to hide inconvenient truths from others. I know this drum has been beaten to death, but anyone who has social media does this. They cultivate their lives to project a certain image to others. It’s the imagined self, the way we would most like to be seen by others. But it’s not just how others see you. The mask can sometimes change how you see yourself.

Hypocrisy

In Matthew 23 Jesus really takes the Pharisees to task. They were the religious establishment, the people who were venerated above all others for their holiness. But Jesus saw that for a lot of them it was a mask; they had the veneer of being righteous, but it was all for show. The Pharisees hated him for it, because they couldn’t not separate themselves from the mask and see themselves for who they truly were.

Our masks can make us like that a little bit. We can wear them for so long we can trick ourselves into believing everything is ok, when in reality it’s not. They make us hypocritical which in the Greek means ‘play-acting’. It’s a performance of whatever the mask is meant to convey, whether success, love or happiness. And in some ways, that might be necessary, a sort of fake-it-til-you-make-it approach to love and happiness.

The problem with this is where love enters the mix. If you wear masks, people may fall in love with the mask and not the real you. Think of all the Instagram celebrities that people love. They are loving an approximation of a person who is by definition not real. This is a problem for both sides of the relationship/friendship; the bond is based on nothing concrete so might fall apart if exposed. An in some sense we may realise this and tie the mask even tighter to our face so it never slips. But this means that people will never be able to love the real you because they have never met them.

The façade cracks

I got really good at wearing masks.

A lot of this was for basic survival. If I looked like I was ok, then people wouldn’t probe. We are all good at assuming people are ok even when they’re not. And that is part of the problem with masks is that hey become toxic the more they are used. We get so used to wearing them, that we cannot see when we might actually need help.

This has been my situation for a while. Protecting others from my reality as much as protecting myself from the same became second nature. But once I allowed the façade to crack I was able to actually get help from others and let them see the real me. This is why I think my previous post is so connected to this one; being spiritually naked and vulnerable with each other relies on us taking off the mask.

And this has to be an active choice on your part. Because sooner or later, the mask will slip from your face, and like it or not, people will see the real you. It happened to me once; my mask slipped and a friend saw the real ugly truth and it changed our friendship. Because I hadn’t really opened that part of myself, it was a nasty shock for them.

So, choose to take of the mask. It will be painful, but I promise it will be worth it, as the friends that stick around will love you for the real you, and not some fake version.

Love & Vulnerability: Exposure


Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I became puzzled by something I read in Genesis. Genesis 3 tells us the story of the fall of man, how the man and woman were corrupted and ate the forbidden fruit. But what caught my eye was what the account gives as the first response of Adam and Eve when they had eaten the fruit:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:7‬ ‭NIVUK

They realised they were naked.

It’s strange that the very first thing you’d notice after eating fruit that gives you the knowledge of good and evil is that you’re starkers. I can’t imagine suddenly Adam felt a breeze around his nethers and that’s what made him realise! The garden of Eden probably wasn’t chilly.

But the fact that Adam and Eve were naked is also mentioned in chapter 2; in fact it’s the final verse:

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The fact that the Bible chooses to reinforce this point twice shows that it’s meant to teach us something. But I didn’t know what. But then I listened to a Timothy Keller podcast on Genesis 3 and how it shows us the different behaviours of sin. He made the point that the nakedness in the garden represents a different kind of nakedness for us.

Being Naked

The nakedness in the fall is a reflection of the fact that Adam and Eve had not sinned and only realised they were naked when they had sinned. Why? Not actually being naked, but realising that others can see your nakedness. And that changed how Adam and Eve saw each other and wanted to be seen.

Being naked means the people who see you can see you for who you truly are. There are no tricks, no way to hide, nothing to conceal all the things about yourself. You are completely exposed. Being naked in public is one of the more common nightmares people admit to having, and I think that speaks to the primal fear within us of what people might think if they saw us that way. Everyone could see all those little imperfections, those unsightly lumps and scars, that weird mole that’s slightly too big.

But it’s not always physical nakedness. There are some people who have no problem being naked in front of others (nudist camps, events and beaches testify to that). It’s not even nakedness within the context of sex, as some people find it easy to have multiple sexual partners. It’s rather more subtle and interesting than at first glance. Because the nakedness in the garden of Eden wasn’t just physical, it was spiritual.

The Soul Laid Bare

Adam and Eve only realised they were naked once they sinned. This is crucial to understanding spiritual nakedness, because being physically naked and spiritually naked are perfect parallels. When you’re naked in front of someone, you have no secrets. They see all of you, all the bits you normally cover up. We cover our shame with clothes to hide those pieces of ourselves (or in my case, many layers, but that’s due to being cold all the time).

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had no need to hide because they had no secrets. They hadn’t done anything that they would need to hide from one another. But once they ate the fruit and had realised what they had done, they covered themselves, because they now knew too much that could be used by others against them.

We are not so different. There’s loads of stuff we hide and keep concealed from one another in order to make our lives ostensibly easier (although whether it makes them better is up for debate). We are scared that if people can see us they won’t like what they see. I know I kept a lot of stuff in for a long time, and to an extent I still have trouble trusting people with my secrets. I’m scared that people will abandon me or decide to use them against me.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

Love

Just think for a moment how many people you’d be willing to be spiritually naked with. Probably only a few right? Only closest family and friends, or if you’re lucky, your partner. You can be naked with them because you aren’t afraid for them to see your secrets. You can remove “clothing” around them to actually show them who you really are.

I was fortunate to make the group of friends I now have when I did. Before then there was a lot of hidden anxiety and trauma that I hadn’t begun to unpack. But what helped me was someone was willing to be vulnerable in front of me and lay bare their problems and worries. This allowed me to see that opening up wasn’t a bad thing, and that allowed me to open up and develop more meaningful relationships with my friends.

So yeah. In order to love, you have to be willing to get naked. You have to be able to let people see you at your worst, all the stuff you don’t think people would love you if they could see. Yes it’s scary, but you can achieve a depth of friendship or partnership you wouldn’t have done otherwise

And do you know what? Remember that God can see all these things that you hide from everyone else. He sees it all. And he loves you anyway. So you never know, others might too.

Love: Introduction

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

So this is a weird one.

Throughout this past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Whether it’s friendships, family, relationships, or Gods love, it’s all been swimming around in my brain.

God calls it the greatest of all things, even above faith and hope which are central to the Christian faith. This shows us just how important it is to love each other and ourselves, as God has placed love at the pinnacle of human existence.

Now I am very unqualified to talk about love, being not very good at it, but I also think conversely I’ve learnt more about myself and love through my failures and limited successes.

So this series will examine some aspects of what it means to love. It is meant to be inclusive of all the different forms of love that we can have as humans for one another, but also the love that God has for all of us.

So here goes nothing. I apologise in advance.

The Road to Bad Faith 2: Checklist belief

Turn acts faith into a list of chores. This is a surefire way to make activities that should be full of joy boring as hell.

The act of baptism requires full body immersion. John the Baptist submerged the believers beneath the surface of the Jordan in order to absolve them of their sins. In the same way, faith can be viewed as a baptism. Complete submersion is required to become healthy and whole.

But what of us journeying down the road to a bad faith? Well the idea is simple: stay in the shallow end. Having only toes or feet in the water means you don’t get wet, but also means you don’t join anyone having fun in the deep end of the pool.

The things that help to increase faith are well-known; prayer, reading Gods word, talking to others, attending groups/church can all be paths to a healthy faith. But we can make them unhealthy too. In order to accomplish this, try and make each of these activities part of a checklist that you must complete every day. Although this may work against your quest for bad faith initially because discipline can be helpful, you can easily turn each of these activities into a complete chore.

Now the easiest thing would be to do none of these things. Go completely cold turkey. But if you’re reading this, you are probably invested to a certain extent already and guilt may even motivate you to take part in these activities. The good news is guilt about not doing them is already a step to these activities being pointless for you, for you are doing them out of a sense of obligation not out of love. This will make it far easier to follow the steps below.

Reading the Bible

This is perhaps the easiest one. My own church has a plan where the bible can be read at least once if read in three sections. Your goal is to complete all of the required readings as fast as humanly possible. Scan read each passage and never stop to consider things you find challenging or thought-provoking. Once one is completed, move instantly on to the next one, then the next, until you have done the bare minimum. Then you can throw your bible on your shelf, having both completed your daily task whilst gaining nothing from it whatsoever.

Prayer

Prayer is the avenue through which you can talk to God. Fortunately, God doesn’t answer us directly (I.e. with a voice you can recognise) so it is easy to turn prayer into a fruitless exercise.

Use the same prayer every time. Structured prayers could be a way to improve your chats with God, but your prayers should be identical every time; never inject any personal information such as worries, hopes and desires into your prayers. These conversations should be treated like you are talking to a stranger, with the minimal amount of information that may reveal your true self (even though God already knows everything).

This will depersonalise your prayers over time. They will have no benefit to you at all because you never expose what you truly want or feel. Talking to God could lead to personal revelations or at least some catharsis; but follow this advice and prayer will become a pointless exercise not worth the couple of minutes it takes to say them.

Church/ other groups

Attending church or other groups associated with faith could have the potential to improve your faith. These experiences provide the opportunity to learn and to grow in your understanding of God, yourself and the scriptures.

As referred to above, you may not be ready to quit cold turkey from church activities. So, attend but don’t attend. Your body can be physically present in the space where learning and growth might occur, but allow your mind to wander elsewhere. Never pay attention for longer than five minutes. Instead worry about life outside of the church; think about your next meal, or the work meeting you have tomorrow. This has the dual benefit of distracting you from listening and learning, and also from engaging in quiet meditation that may bring some inner peace.

Conclusion

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬
https://www.bible.com/113/pro.3.3.nivuk

Your goal is to avoid the above. Getting so close to God that his love is written on your heart might lead to personal growth, improvement and contentment. So, do the bare minimum you think might be required of you, but engage no further. Avoid ducking your head below the surface if you can. Even better, stay in the shallow end.

Wilderness

I am currently reading Rachel Held Evans’ final book Inspired. I have been meaning to read it ever since she died last year and after enjoying her other books Year of Biblical Womanhood and Searching for Sunday. She had such a beautiful way of writing and it will always be a shame that it was silenced so soon.

Anyway, I have just finished reading the chapter on the deliverance stories and their importance in the bible. She makes the point that these stories mean so much more to certain people because of their circumstances; the language and story of the exodus from Egypt resonated down the centuries to the African slaves stolen from the homes and trafficked across an ocean, where they and their descendants toiled from birth until death, many never knowing freedom. A story of liberation would have meant so much more to them than it does to a white boy from Britain. Evans crafts a fascinating chapter centring around the idea that the wilderness represents moments of change or being lost from God or moments or the journey between two points.

This got me thinking about my own journey. I feel like I am definitely in a wilderness sort of place currently. A lot of the securities in my life, or ones that appeared to be securities fell away or at least became less secure last year. The future for me is uncertain, wild, without a clear path of where to go.

This is something that I think comes up a lot for me, but also many people of my generation: where am I going? We have been brought up into a world where all the usual goals of life (good steady job, married in your twenties, two and a half kids) are still present, but fewer and fewer of us are able to achieve them. My parents were both married by their mid-twenties and had me before they were thirty; I am 26 and single. They were both employed in salaried jobs; I am very much part of the gig economy where zero hour contracts are the norm. And it isn’t just my parents generation either; I have attended four weddings in the past two years and all but one of the individuals getting married were younger than me.

I think God is definitely taking me through the wilderness. But for me, who likes to be in control of what he is doing, this is a bit of a nightmare. Even if what I end up doing is nothing, it is still my choice, and besides, there is no pillar of fire outside of my window last time I looked. But I know that I need to trust in the LORD and not lean on my own understanding. I just need to close my eyes, take a breath and walk humbly with my God.

Checking my Privilege and Changing Myself

We can do this the easy way, or the hard way…”

A huge part of the Christian life is self-reflection. It is baked into the very core of the beliefs I hold; by choosing to be baptised I acknowledged that I am a person in need of changing and that would require a lifetime of examining myself and my actions. Christianity is realising you are broken, but by Gods grace we can be better.

As such, I try to keep myself in check, particularly by trying to be empathetic to someone else’s situation. This is tricky and I often fail at doing so (more on that later), but in the whole I want to try and improve myself. Understanding how others see the world and themselves is a very useful tool to have when dealing with the world and other people. And that’s also understanding how they see me also. When someone looks at me, what do they see?

Privilege

Privilege has become a buzzword in the 21st century, particularly in the past decade. When people talk about privilege, they talk about the advantages you have as a person that help you get further in life. Basically, I got the privilege jackpot; I am a white cis-het middle class male, born into one of the most prosperous nations on Earth. I think a misunderstanding of the conversation around privilege is that privilege automatically makes life easier, and people who do not wish to reflect on their privilege will often point to the existence of poor white people relative to rich black people to “prove” that privilege does not exist. But this is a severe misrepresentation of what privilege means. Having certain privileges does not mean your life would be easy, it just means someone in your position but didn’t look like you would have an even harder time being successful.

I am very much aware that I have been blessed with amazing privilege. It is a shame the things listed in the previous paragraph do give me advantages over others, because the world is a messed up place. I therefore try and be conscious in my interactions that I do have certain power within conversations over others and therefore try and mitigate that. I read the tweets and articles written by women, PoCs and LGBTQ people to try and broaden my perspective and make it less likely that I will make a faux pas.

Buuuuuut that doesn’t always happen.

Learning a Lesson

Life has a habit of trying to teach you things.

Depending on who you are, life can give you easy or hard lessons. I try and maximise my opportunity for receiving easy lessons as opposed to hard ones. for example, I like to read books to learn how others coped with things that might be useful to me. But sometimes life serves you up a lesson that swings in like a fist wrapped in barbed wire. My breakup last year was one of those times; I learned that my unresolved trauma had damaged my relationship and that some of my other more minor flaws (but flaws nevertheless) also contributed to its end. I have thus far done a poor job in addressing these, but I know that I need to work through some stuff in order to move on. But today was another time where I was punched by a life lesson.

Although I try to be aware of my privileges that I listed above, I had a blind spot towards quite an important one; my physical ability. It speaks to a lot about society and the circles that I travel in that I don’t actually know anyone closely who is themselves disabled. I am only dimly aware of issues surrounding disability.

So I was waiting by my staff lift today when a student walked up to the lift, put her card against the reader (I didn’t see if it went green) and tried to get in the lift with me. I told her it was a lift for staff members only, and she very quickly said she was disabled. Now, disabled students have card access to the staff lift, but often students without disability will try and blag their way into using it.

This is where I made my big mistake. I looked at the girl. She was not in a chair or using a stick, so I wrongfully assumed she wasn’t disabled. I asked her “are you disabled?” And she replied back “I am legally registered blind, and the fact you asked me that is bang out of order.” I mumbled an apology and she got out on the next floor. Her friend complained at the desk later on when I was there and I admitted my mistake and that I was sorry I ever made it. I also said if the girl wanted to hear it directly from me I would be willing to give her one.

So life really taught me a lesson today. I shouldn’t assume that people without visible signs are not disabled. I need to remember that I have more privileges than I am aware of and I need to fundamentally shift my perspective by bringing in the views of disabled activists to better understand how I can be better. For a while I have been reading the tweets of Sharon Dingle, a Christian author who is herself disabled and who has also adopted children who are disabled. Her tweets are funny, heartbreaking and informative, but I realise I need to pay more attention to her tweets about her experience with disability.

My life is full of mistakes. I stumble down this road, constantly tripping over my own wrongdoing and bad decisions. I know that when the Kingdom comes, I will be changed for the better permanently, but here and now, with Jesus’ help, I need to learn to be better, for the sake of myself and those who I meet along the way

The Road to Bad Faith 1: Choose Other Gods

As a Christian, God should be the centre of your life. So centre something else instead.

The old gods and the new

Paul visited Athens and found that the city was full of idol worship (Acts 17:16). He found that the people of Athens worshipped the gods of their ancestors. These gods were ancient and part of many fantastic stories, creating the beasts such as the Minotaur and Cyclops. The city was full of temples and shrines to these gods where people could make sacrifices to these gods in order to gain their favour. A not insignificant portion of the local economy would have been established primarily to facilitate this worship.

So why is this relevant to you? No one worships those gods anymore! Just how the heck am I supposed to offer a sacrifice to Zeus if there is no priest to clean up the blood or burn the incense?

Timothy Keller in his book ‘Counterfeit gods’ applies idol worship of the past to today by reminding us that the gods people like the ancient Greeks used to worship represented things and concepts in their world. There were gods of war, wisdom, beauty, fertility, farming, family, money, etc. People would sacrifice to the god of their choice; a warrior may sacrifice to Ares for favour in battle, whereas a teenager may sacrifice to Aphrodite in order to find love. The difference between now and then is that the gods have gone, but the concepts they represent have remained.

Choosing your god

So, what do you need to do for bad faith? Easy. Find another god to worship. Because these gods no longer have specific identities, you can worship them without ever leaving the church building. You can still attend church every week, as long as the central focus of your life remains elsewhere.

So what god should you worship? Timothy Keller tells us that our idols are what we build around, what becomes the foundation of our lives. So for you it should be the thing you want most in your life? What thing, if you had it, would make your life complete? No one is completely content so there must be the magic cure-all, that one thing that fills that little hole inside of you.

Now a Christian might tell you that you should fill that hole with God, but you don’t want that! You want a faith that is weakened critically! Fortunately, it’s really hard to build your life around God because He is so abstract. The things in this world are physically right in front of you and have the appearance of being solid foundations.

Below is a list of the sort of things you could feasibly build your life around:

  • Money/stuff: very obvious one this. The modern world of advertising is geared towards the pursuit of ever greater riches, but also increasingly out of reach for the majority of people. Building around this god is a surefire way to disappointment
  • Status: another perhaps obvious god. This has been made even easier to follow due to social media. You can actually break down your influence statistically to see how well you’re following your god
  • Family/relationships/friendships: another really easy one. The people in your life are primed and ready to be placed on the god pedestal, whether it’s friends you want to impress, parents whose validation you crave, children you push your hopes and dreams onto, or that special someone you can’t stop thinking about. These people, although they can never give you what you really need, are perfect candidates for your worship.
  • Identity: aspects of your personal identity are good candidates for your worship. Just take something about you, even the tiniest thing, and make it central to your entire existence. You already have a perfect candidate right in front of you with your particular brand of Christianity or scriptural interpretation. Some, like your race if your white are even back in vogue for some stupid reason!

The catch

The thing with these idols is that they are trying to fill a hole that only god can fill. The writer of Ecclesiastes, usually attributed to King Solomon spends much of the opening chapters talking about how all his achievements, wealth and relationships were ultimately meaningless.

If God is the rock, these things are the sand. They are easy to build your identity around, but fall apart easily when the bad times hit. Money can be lost, or an excess can poison your relationships; people die, move away, or stop being your friends. All things are transient except God, but for your bad faith to succeed, something else must take its place.

The Road to a Bad Faith: Introduction

Imagine you want to build a house.

You wander the land trying to find the ideal location to call home. You will need water, fertile soil and plenty of space to grow crops. You keep wandering until you find a valley which seems ideal; there is a river and plenty of flat land in which to develop. But your eyes are drawn to a high rocky outcrop that sticks out above the river. You climb the outcrop with difficulty, but once you are at the top you decide that is where you will build.

The work is hard and long; digging the foundations into the rock wrecks your back and arms, drenching you in sweat. Once that is done, you have to collect the materials you need… down in the valley. Every trip is agony, tiring and frustrating. Only when all the materials have been collected, can you begin building, brick by brick. You strain to lift the logs and stone into place, your muscles screaming in resistance. Finally, after several days, you have finished your house. It is small and a little crooked in places, but it’s home.

Now let’s step back and imagine the same scenario. You find the valley with the river and the land, but instead of using the rock, you decide to build close to river, down in the soft riverbank sand. You think this makes sense; it’s really close to all the things you will need, and besides, why make a lot of unnecessary effort?

Building is quick and easy. Your tools easily break through the soft sand and the foundations are finished in no time. Collecting the resources is easy as everything can be rolled down the slopes towards your new house. Finally, you step back and admire your handiwork. Your house is sprawling and elaborate, and all with minimal effort on your part. You sit down by your bay window overlooking the river, and in the distance, you see the other version of you, covered in sweat and burned from the sun, still breaking in the foundation. You smile to yourself; if only they had had your foresight and cunning, they could have been lounging in the shade with a cold beer, but instead they have hit their foot with the pick axe for the 5th time! And when their house is finished, you scoff at it’s tiny space, it’s crude design and crooked doorframe. Your house, with its many rooms and chic design is far better than that crap shack!

But one day, a small, white cloud appears over the valley. The small cloud begins to expand and turn violent until the entire sky is a raging sea of grey and black. As a fork of lightning splits the sky, heavy drops of rain hammer your roof. The river, rising due to the increased water flow, begins to break its banks. The sand absorbs some of the water until it can’t hold it any longer. You realise the west wing of your house begins to sink. You run in to find your dining room furniture floating past you. You run into the bathroom and just manage to climb into your bathtub before the river breaks the walls and sweeps your house away. Nothing is left standing. As you float in your bathtub, wondering where you went wrong, you look up and see the other you, sitting safely and snugly in their little house, reading a book as the rain batters the windows, but quite protected from the storm outside.

One of the first stories a young child learns in Sunday school is the parable of the wise and foolish builders. Jesus uses this parable to describe to his followers how to build their lives. God is a rock and everything else is sand. Although building your life on God is hard, when the bad times come, your strong foundation with God will keep you standing. This is contrasted with a foolish builder who chooses to build his life on anything that isn’t God. Although this is easier, when the bad times come, these things cannot support your weight and you collapse.

But here is an interesting point; what if you took the opposite point of the story? What if you chose to follow the sand builder, and build your life on unsturdy foundations? What if you built a faith that couldn’t last?

The premise

The idea for this series came about three years ago when I saw a video by Youtuber CGP Grey called “7 ways to maximise misery”. https://youtu.be/LO1mTELoj6o

Based off of a new self help book, the idea of the video is that happiness is really difficult and vague, so it is conversely easier to work out how to live the most miserable life possible. Suggestions in the video and book involved things like avoiding all exercise, having an irregular sleeping pattern, and maximising your time in front of screens. So I thought, could the same principle be applied to your faith? I have found it difficult to build a strong faith over the years. It takes a lot of work. The path to bad faith seems so much easier both to identify and also to accomplish.

So this series is about walking the road towards Jesus and God but with a faith that will make it far more likely you will not make it to journeys end. Are you ready? Let’s begin.