When associate editor Janae Rempel talked with USMB pastor Boris Borisov about serving displaced Ukrainians that have come to Spokane, Boris referred to faithfulness as “long obedience in the same direction.” This phrase sounded familiar, and a Google search revealed that Boris was quoting the title of Eugene Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
What a great definition of faithfulness. The theme for the feature articles in this issue was inspired by the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
It can be challenging to be faithful when we struggle with loss due to war, economic hardship, debilitating health issues and the sudden death of someone we love. How is it possible to say we are willing to be faithful even if God does not intervene as we want him to and know he can? The essays in this issue address this and other questions that we wrestle with during times of disappointment, difficulty and despair. Not every chapter in our faith stories are neatly wrapped and topped with a cheerful bow.
There is also the reminder in this issue to look to one another when we are struggling to be faithful, hopeful and obedient. The important and supportive role the faith community plays in our long journeys of obedient faithfulness is illustrated in one of my favorite scenes in C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian.
The Pevensie siblings and Trumpkin the dwarf are searching for Prince Caspian, and at this point in the story, Lucy is the only one of five who can see the great lion Aslan. Aslan has told Lucy that he will guide them through the forest. It takes some convincing, but Lucy finally persuades the others to follow her as she follows Aslan through the trees and down one side of a treacherous gorge and up the other.
This is how Lewis describes the procession: “Aslan turned and walked at a slow pace about 30 yards ahead of them. The others had only Lucy’s direction to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well…. Lucy had her eyes on the Lion and the rest had their eyes on Lucy.”
When we feel like all we can do is desperately hang on, when circumstances keep us from clearly seeing Jesus and feeling his presence, sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes on the disciples around us—our families, friends and congregation—who are faithfully following our King and Savior. And for a time, their faith can strengthen our faltering steps in our journey of long obedience in the same direction.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.