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Lenten Devotional 2021: Day 9

Thursday, February 25 – Written by Ann Nguyen

Faith Is … – Hebrews 11:1-3

Photo Credit: Mary Beth Wallace

Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation – D. Elton Trueblood

As part of my Asian Buddhist heritage, I was introduced to the concept of karma at a very young age. The law of karma connects actions and results. My dad often reminded us to practice this philosophy in our daily lives. He shared the horror story of a massacre in 1946 My dad was implicated in a dreadful impasse which he survived in a mystical way. He firmly believed that he was saved due to his ancestral karma/blessings.

Although this upbringing helped me make ethical decisions throughout my life, I always felt somewhat uneasy deep inside me. Because karma beliefs are like a book-keeping system in which good and bad thoughts and deeds are debited and credited, I became fearful. What if the balance of these accounts is not sufficient to redeem when needed? What if I did something so bad in my previous life that I couldn’t escape punishment in this life regardless of those merit points? The stress of this ‘what-if’ thinking pushed worry-free living out of my reach.

Then I discovered the beauty of faith and how it differs from karma. Although the Bible does say ‘a man reaps what he sows’ (Galatians 6:7), God’s Word is more about grace than karma. Grace is unmerited favour, where one gets what they don’t even deserve. It was grace that rescued baby Moses from death. It was grace that allowed Queen Esther to plead for the survival of her people. And it was grace that led me to become Christ’s disciple and part of the wonderful IUC congregation. Grace has set me free of the fear trap – I now pray instead of feeling overwhelmed and scared trusting the Holy Spirit will guide my steps.

When my dad died this past fall, the thought of saying a final good-bye terrified me. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope so I went to sit on the church steps knowing I would find comfort there. Sure enough, my attention was drawn to the beautiful fall colours and Rev. Maya’s preaching about this season of change: ‘Every beginning has an ending and every ending has a new beginning’. For every start of a journey, there must be an end. And my Dad’s journey is no exception. It is difficult to cope with the loss of a beloved. But we can also look at it from another perspective: death is a portal and our beloved lives on. What we see as an ending is a really a beginning. Our loved one feels joy, freedom and peace during the transition to be ‘home’. After the conversation with God, I felt much at peace. Walking home I realized that my sadness had actually brought me much closer to God. It was my burning bush moment with Him.

Dear Father – As your beloved child, I try to live a good life, not because of karma, but because I am following the example of Jesus. Being kind to others is part of my walk with Christ to be alive; it’s not as a means of banking merit points in exchange for good things in life. In Jesus’ precious name, I pray, Amen!