Last Friday, Shelah came down for a quick visit. We did some fun stuff (putting that puzzle together was hilarious, mostly because of the conversation), including taking some sort of personality/career test. I think Shelah called it the CVI. She was introduced to it through her job. She sells Cutco and works as an office manager up in their Vancouver, WA location, and apparently, they like to use this CVI stuff to get an idea about their employees strengths and weaknesses. That’s smart thinking, I think. The whole concept was hardly new to Shelah, which is why she brought it home with her. She’s been subjected to my fascination for personality typing for years. We talked about that a little bit, and it was a lot of fun.

It did make me think, though. I do that. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and to another, and next thing you know, personality profiling has led me all the way to the book of James. I suppose they don’t seem terribly connected, but I got there thinking about my personality and character. I am a people watcher. It can be entertaining and educational and a whole host of nice words that begin with “e.” Generally, I am an observer. I think that’s even one of the types in the Enneagram. That tendency to observe (to watch carefully, to come to realize or know, to take notice) has in many ways been a strength. I see things about myself, others, and my environment that are informative, interesting, and produce insight. It’s been great as an amateur photographer. I’ve learned so much about how to take better photos simply by looking carefully around me and at the work I’ve already produced.

However, like any strength, habits of observation can also be a weakness. I can get stuck, so busy watching and looking and seeing that I forget to apply, to live, to do, and that’s how I got to the book of James.

If you want to get hit over the head a few times, I recommend James. It’s a short book, a mere five chapters that take up not quite three pages in my pocket-sized ESV version, in which James bluntly and uncompromisingly lays out principles of Christian living. He covers favoritism, the need for us to master what we say, living faith out, godly wisdom, the necessity of patience, and let’s not forget his advice about trials. According to him, we’re to “count it all joy” (James 1:2a). He’s obviously a crazy man, yet I find what he says to be convicting and compelling, particularly in this case what he says about a life lived in faith.

To observe from a safe distance is, according to James, inadequate for faith. It’s not enough to, as he put it in the first chapter, be a “hearer.” He says this:

22But be(AN) doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law,(AO) the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,(AP) he will be blessed in his doing. (NIV)

To be only a hearer is to be self deceived. Ouch, huh? In the second chapter, he goes on to say this:

 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith(S) but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith(V) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(W) by my works.

26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (NIV)

See what I mean about uncompromising? He tells us that not only are we lying to ourselves if we think hearing the word is enough, but that also the faith of which we are so proud and in which we trust is dead if not given life in our actions. It has to show up in what we do. Or beliefs must inform our deeds in order for it to be any good. Honestly, that’s been quite a challenge for me, to be a doer, to get out of my comfort zone, stop simply watching, and start acting.

Thinking about it this week made me ask myself what is it I’m doing now to live out a life of faith. It’s not easy still, and I’ve had years of practice now. I guess it’s not ever supposed to be really easy. It’s meant to continue the process of growth, and life is good at providing opportunities. Hearing about the debt which the American government has accrued has been frightening to me. I can’t see how it can possibly end well for us, and that fear makes me want to clamp down and figure out some way to protect myself. But that’s not what I’m called to do. I’m not called to hide under a bushel basket and bury that talent until my master returns. I still have to live, and what I should be doing is releasing the fear, trusting God with the future of me and mine, and continue to reach out. I’m still called to help the orphans and the widows, to spend my money and my energy and my time to help those around me. I’m still called to serve, something which my job and my family happen to provide me with many opportunities to do. I should still be loving the people around me, to allow Christ to reach through me to them and at the same time reach inside me and continue the process of perfecting.

It also made me wonder what you do. When fear, as Aragorn put it in “The Return of the King,” “would take the heart of” you, what do you do to keep your heart and faith alive? What inspires you? Gives you hope? Drives you back to your knees? What do you do?