Our city is building a new arena, and I don’t know if that’s the reason all the other downtown places are getting a facelift, but when I met my friend downtown for lunch the other day, I kept thinking to myself, “Wow! Things have really changed down here!”
It’s not as if I don’t ever get downtown. It’s just that things are changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up. It’s hard to predict which roads will be blocked, which landmarks will have been demolished, and what new building will have gone up virtually overnight. Last week, when H and I had a late dinner on the patio of my favorite restaurant, we watched a crane operator, towering above what used to be the post office, working well past sunset.
Along with the excitement of the new arena, our city is also getting rebranded. An entire marketing campaign has been developed, in the hopes of attracting young families who will put down roots and eat in restaurants and open businesses and pay taxes and grow old together; here, where Life Is Right.
I tell you all of this because of something CeCe Winans said to me the other day. Yes. I’m exaggerating. She didn’t exactly say it to me. She sang it. And I don’t know if she could even see me, what with all the spotlights and stage lights and cameras flashing in her eyes. And the tens of thousands of women who were standing on their feet, singing right along with her.
But there we were — CeCe and me — just feet away from each other at Women of Faith in Des Moines, Iowa. Jennifer and I were getting our praise on, clapping and dancing and singing along with CeCe and her crew and CeCe looked me right in the eyes and reminded me that faith is not a passive event. Just like that. She sang it to me, and I sang it right back to her and she looked me right in the eye to make sure I’d gotten the message.
And it made me think of my city, with all of its rebranding and rebuilding and restructuring and resurfacing. Refusing to be thought of as a sleepy little backwards, closed-minded, land-locked, podunk town, stuck way out here in the middle of nowhere. Refusing to be less than. Refusing to just lay down and let people think there’s nothing more here than cows and corn.
That night, with CeCe Winans locking her eyes on me for those few minutes, I took a good, hard look at my faith and realized it needed to be rebranded. I realized there are many areas where I’ve laid my faith down and surrendered whole aspects of my life with barely a whimper of protest. I’ve accepted less than and considered it sufficient. I’ve settled for mediocre when I know better. All because I forgot that faith is not a passive endeavor. And because it’s easier to just give in to conventional wisdom about what’s best for my family, my adult children, my giving, my ability to make a difference, the power of my one voice.
I don’t want to be the excuse people give for faith being all fluff and no impact; or all shouting and finger pointing on TV and radio and Facebook, but complete silence and desertion in the very real trenches where very real people live and where faith matters most. I don’t want to be the poster child for a faith that cowers in fear when life gets tough and disappointment dries up my mouth and my bones, and then threatens to grind me to dust. I don’t want people looking at me and making the mistake that faith is a waste of time and energy, and doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.
Somewhere, I’d forgotten about the rubber-hits-the-road kind of faith. The kind of faith that remembers we all have the same enemy and it is not each other. The kind of faith that uses prayer and love and grace as a weapon to destroy fear and worry and shame and guilt. I’d forgotten that God is bigger than whatever it is that makes me roll over and play dead.
But I remember now. And I’m taking it back.