Monday, February 29, 2016

On Faith and Whiskey

   This is a post on faith, and I’m going to share a chapter from the Bible, because it’s the foundation of this story. Please humor me in reading it. To compensate for its length, I’ve added italics to highlight my favorite parts. Plus underlines for the super favorite parts.
Hebrews 11: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
   By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
   By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.
   By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
   By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
   By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
   All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
   By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
   By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.
   By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
   By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
   By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
   By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
   By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
   By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
   By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
   ***[See note below on author’s addendum to this list of faith]***
   And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
    These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

   This is by far one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, and I have read it many times. If you’re unfamiliar with this Hebrews chapter, or are unfamiliar with the Bible in general, you just got an amazing summary of some of the best-known stories from the Bible. Some people call the people mentioned in this passage “heroes of faith,” which is a good term, because none of them would have been heroes without their faith.

The chapter starts off with a definition of faith—“confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Bam! I love it when something I can’t quite put in words is so well captured by someone else. (Like the Bible.)

Faith is a huge part of a spiritual journey. It’s what gets you through the tough parts. It’s what allows you to lay down your fears and doubts and continue to trust a God that you do not fully understand, whose plans you cannot know.

Back in early October, I found this passage coming to mind while in a liquor store, of all places. I stood there in the whiskey aisle (my favorite adult beverage) in my favorite liquor store (the one by Shoppers) and tried to make a decision. Jack Daniels is generally my brand, bought in the 1.75 L bottle because it is the most economical size of the brand I never get tired of. I think on this day it was priced at $36.99.

And just down the aisle, there was Maker’s Mark, my fancy-occasion whiskey of choice. Rarely purchased, due to its less economical price, which on this day, was also $36.99, but for the fifth.

I looked at one, and then the other. The holidays were coming up, with more entertaining, so buying the bigger bottle made more sense. But something in me kept drawing me back to the smaller, more special Maker’s Mark. And the Hebrews 11 chapter.

And so I prayed, right there in the whiskey aisle. Not because I’m an alcoholic or anything, but because in my mind, I was making a big decision and I was dedicating it to God. Despite the horrible loss of the pregnancy just two months before, God had healed my heart enough to want to try again. And so I prayed, “God, I don’t know why you caused me to lose that baby, but I know you have a plan, and I know you are not done with building our family. In faith, I am buying the smaller bottle God, and I pray that you will answer my prayer for another child before that bottle is empty.” It was perhaps the most bold prayer I've ever prayed.

When I got home, Josh made an “oooohhh” sound when he saw me put away the bottle of Maker’s and asked why the fancy bottle. Unashamed, I told him I bought it “in faith” that God will grant me a new pregnancy before the precious little bottle was emptied.

Fast-forward to Nov. 10. I still had one pregnancy test left from the last pregnancy, and after feeling car-sick for no reason (as in, not even being in a car) the night before, I decided to give it a go. There was a faint line, and it was still 3 days before I was expecting to get my period. I decided it was inconclusive, but went away smiling.

Two days later, I went to Target and bought another box. I tried it again that night — now 24 hours before my missed period, and the line was definitely there. I took a picture of it to show Josh when he got home because they tell you not to read the results after 10 minutes because the line can fade with time.

When Josh got home, my heart was racing as I tried to tell him the news. I intended to say “I have a positive pregnancy test,” but what came out was “I have a pregnant…” and then I paused as my overexcited brain tried to figure out how to rescue this sentence.

It didn’t get there. Josh beat me to it. “You’re pregnant?”

And I showed him the photo of the test. Still feeling guarded after the last loss, we didn’t start jumping to happy conclusions like we would have said before suffering a miscarriage, like “we’re having a baby!” or “we’re going to be parents again!” But there’s no denying that the excitement was there, that there was hope, if not yet the assurance part of the faith.

And I reminded Josh about the Maker’s Mark bottle, which was still 2/3 full, purchased “in faith.”

And so with that, I have constructed my own personal addendum, which I shall call Hebrews 11:31b: “By faith, Carrie bought the small bottle of whiskey, believing that God would grant her another child in good time.”

Baby BOY Knauer is joyfully expected July 22, 2016.