by Fran W. Bragan, D. Min.; Chaplain/Director of Pastoral Services, Presbyterian Communities of SC in Lexington
The dishes were done and the dogs were fed and now my husband and I were enjoying the remainder of the evening outside. Me in the pool relaxing on a small round raft and him puttering around the deck. He decided to check the skimmer and lifted off the lid. “You won’t believe this!” he exclaimed.
He stuck his hand into the skimmer and pulled out a frog (or was it a toad? I don’t know the difference.)
“Is it dead?” I asked as the frog jumped from his hand.
His hand went back in and out came frog number two followed by frogs three through seven. “I can’t believe they stayed alive in there!” He followed my exclamation with a grim look on his face. “This is how they managed.”
He then pulled out one, two, then three frogs that looked like small frog balloons with their bellies extended and legs and head barely noticeable. “They were standing on the backs of these guys.”
Sad story if you’re a frog or frog fancier, but true. And I believe it is a metaphor for faith. It may be a bit of a stretch but bear with me.
Humans are born with faith. According to Merriam-Webster the first definition of faith is complete trust in someone or something. Babies trust that parents will care for them: feed them when they’re hungry, change them when they need it, keep them safe. Babies have faith, innocent trust.
Here’s where the frogs come in. I am a seventh generation Presbyterian. It’s all I have ever known. And I have what Merriam-Webster has as the second definition of faith: belief in the existence of God: strong religious feeling or belief. I didn’t have faith sprinkled on me at the baptismal font on Palm Sunday so many years ago. It was the faith of my parents that brought me to the font and placed me in the arms of a loving minister in the midst of a congregation that would nurture me as I grew and learned the stories that brought me to my understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
It was on the backs of those saints of the church and the saints in my life, on whose shoulders I metaphorically stood, and who I still find myself standing on from time to time even though they have long since joined God’s Church Triumphant, that I learned what it meant to have new life in Christ. As a clergywoman I am awed by the stories of faith (definition #2) of God’s people found in scripture on whose backs I also stand.
For instance, God told Abram to go to a place that God would eventually show him and Abram packed up Sarai, his belongings, flocks and slaves and went without so much as a map or GPS. The story of Ruth demonstrates the faithfulness that God desires of us. Esther stood up to a powerful king to save the lives of her people.
Then there’s the woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48). This woman had faith that allowed her to transgress societal boundaries and it gave her the courage to reach out and touch Jesus, in her faith, she knew He had the power to heal her. Another time, in another place, a woman interrupted a dinner when she broke open a jar of costly ointment on Jesus’ head (Mark 14:3-9). In the hours before He would be crucified on a cross, this woman came to prepare Jesus for his death. Her faith moved her to act in the only way she knew.
There are so many more stories in scripture as well as in life of the people who bring us to faith, nurture us in faith, inspire our faith, and strengthen our faith. These are the backs of the ones we stand on. Like the frogs in the skimmer supporting the others, may the day come when those who come after us will be standing on our backs.