Faith Like a Trampoline
As my kids have gotten older, and all their friends with them, I have begun to have conversations with some fellow parents about where life issues and matters of faith collide. We have friends whose children have decided they no longer believe in God or who make choices that are in conflict with God’s design for our lives.
In addition, my wife and I are starting to see some areas in our faith where we no longer believe what we were taught growing up. We are in the process of untangling some of these areas from our faith.
These two things have caused me to start thinking about how our faith should operate.
Whether you are struggling in areas of your own faith or struggling to teach others in theirs, faith issues can be very challenging to our…well, faith. When we begin to question what we were taught growing up or at the earlier moments of our spiritual journey, it’s not always easy to know what to do with these questions. Does having such questions mean you no longer believe in God? Do you just not have “enough faith”? Even though the things you might be questioning could be secondary issues in the faith, this line of questioning can begin to erode the essence or core of your spiritual journey.
A number of years ago I remember reading a book by Rob Bell called Velvet Elvis. While I didn’t agree with everything in the book, he used an example of our faith being like a trampoline that has stuck with me. As I have begun to unravel some well-meaning, but probably inaccurate teaching, this metaphor for our faith has proven to be an encouragement. Like any metaphor, I’m sure it breaks down at some point, but if we don’t over-think it I believe it provides us with an illustration that’s helpful.
So picture a trampoline. It has the frame, the mesh support, and the springs. As you jump on your trampoline the springs expand and contract causing you to bounce up and down. Now, if you were to take one of the springs off your trampoline would it stop working? Of course not, it would continue to bounce you up and down.
Our faith should be like this trampoline. Some teachers can be very black and white in matters of faith. I am black and white in what I call “first areas”. First areas are things like salvation being a free gift from God that cannot be earned. This is a non-negotiable in my faith. First areas are the the legs holding the trampoline up. Who cares if the the springs are working if there aren’t any legs.
But there are plenty of other areas in my faith that are secondary. An example of a secondary issue to me would be my eschatology (when you believe the rapture will occur. Are you pre, mid, or post-tribulation). Another example is “young earth vs old earth.” I recognize that is a very important topic to some, but the issue of how God created the earth is not as important as that he created the earth — nor is it relevant to core areas of salvation. My faith flexes very well on these issues. There could be major evidence that is discovered on either side of these issues and my faith will not be shaken — the trampoline will still bounce.
So often, because of ignorance, bad theology or bad teaching, we can place things that should really be secondary-things in our faith in the first-things area. When we make them the legs to our trampoline, naturally the trampoline falls over.
A pastor or esteemed friend fails morally.
We pray for healing and it never comes.
We were told life with God is the best thing ever, but not told it may also be the hardest thing ever.
Periods where God seems to be silent.
Being taught that God works all things for the good for those who love Him, but not being taught that the “good” may not be fulfilled until you reach heaven.
A story is told of a rich man who grew up wanting to be a missionary. At a young age his sister was diagnosed with leukemia. The boy and their family prayed and prayed. He was told that if they had enough faith, she would survive. When she didn’t, he decided that if there was a God he couldn’t be trusted. He walked away from the Church and God and never looked back.
This man’s “faith trampoline” collapsed, which is what I’m striving to avoid!
Here’s the deal: if Jesus said he would heal every person or come to your rescue every time, that would be a foundation in our beliefs. When Jesus says He will do something, He does it. This becomes a leg on the trampoline because if he doesn’t do what He said He will do, He is not God. Thus, it is that important.
But, Jesus hasn’t said that he will always heal or come to our rescue. We have to untangle some of this bad theology from the truth. As we untangle the mess we will learn to take some secondary matters of our faith out of the first-things area and put them where they belong — so that our faith can function like a trampoline.
This can be very challenging. It will make you come to grips with who you really think Jesus is. But if you don’t grapple with the issues, you run the risk of having your trampoline collapse on you. However, if you can find the discipline and courage to look deep in your life, your trampoline will function the way it was designed to.
It’s a bit like flying in an airplane when the oxygen masks deploy. First, make sure you are caring for you own spiritual needs in this way. You need to be healthy so you can help lead others to health. Then you can begin to help your friends and family navigate the turmoils of their own journey.
And parents, it’s important to help your kids navigate the first and secondary areas of their faith. Help them to own where each issue belongs so that their faith will not breakdown under all the pressure they will inevitably face on their journey. In doing so, you will provide your children with the tools necessary to have a thriving spiritual life.
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