Matt Weber’s Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story brings both depth and humor to the challenges of mortality, especially when they affect young adults and come when you least expect it. Martin Luther is noted for saying, “In the midst of life, we are surrounded by death.” Life holds no guarantees and nothing is secure. God cares for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, but they are here today and gone tomorrow. A tower, as Jesus notes, falls on good and evil alike, and the sun and rain fall on the righteous and unrighteous. We would like to be an exception, but sooner or later we face challenges that take us beyond our current reserves.
Shortly after his wedding, Matt Weber nearly dies. He has everything going for him, notoriety, a lovely and intelligent life partner, good health, and good work, and then everything falls apart. “In the midst of life…” Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggeman speaks of three seasons prayer described in the Psalms: orientation, when everything is going well and life is abundant and blessed; disorientation, when we lose everything positive that defines us and when we cry out to God, all we hear is silence; and new orientation, renewal of well-being, in which new life emerges out of the ashes of what has been lost.Matt Weber lives through all these stages. At certain moments, he doesn’t even have a prayer. He can’t even remember the rosary. Some days, in life, we can’t even pray. At such moments, we have to depend upon the grace of God. The Spirit prays even when we can’t. At such moments, when we’re standing in the need of prayer, we must lean on God, knowing that God alone can save us.
Operating on Faith invites us to trust God fully in all things. This isn’t a call to passivity. In fact, leaning on God empowers us to become activists in those areas in which we change the world. Weber’s text reminded me of Philippians 12:2-3: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Or as Eugene Peterson’s “Message” affirms: “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, and God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Trusting God’s grace, operating by faith, opens us to greater energy, creativity, and resilience, especially in life’s most difficult situations. Weber’s story opens us to looking at faith with humor, imagination, novelty, and inspires action to bring love and beauty to our world.