A Method for Measuring Faith, Part 2

By Clarissa Middleton

January 26, 2020

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:19-20, NRSV


In my mind, if I could, I would plan the rest of my life out step by step. I actually tried to do this a decade ago after graduating from college. I have a journal that has an Excel spreadsheet with all the major milestones I desired to achieve by the time I was thirty.

Now, it is true that writing out our visions and dreams increases our chances of achievement and manifestation. It is simultaneously true that we can overplan and not leave room for God. In hindsight, I achieved most of the things I put on my spreadsheet, but my actual experience over the last decade was so much more than anything I could have ever imagined or conceived.

At my alma mater, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, I learned excruciatingly about the power of moments, and how moments and granularity build a story. Art, digital design, games, movies, and television are all made bit by bit and take after take. They are like the mustard seed Jesus talks about in Matthew 17. All elements are attended to with precision and extreme attention to details.

Stories, just like dreams and goals, are big ideas compacted of the summation of tiny little points easily missed and overlooked. Of course, there is the overall story arc, but that is not the full extent of the narration. The arc unfolds scene by scene.

The story of our lives comes with a built-in arc. We live and we die. At birth, the circumstances for our character are already figured out: race, genetics, class, geographical location, language, and culture. If you tried to plan your life from the very beginning, statistics could easily aid you. Society has given us general guidelines and blueprints per our demographics, and data shows it’s really hard to stray away from our norms.

None of this, however, describes our actual lived experiences. You could ask two people with the same gender, race, religion, class, education, hometown, career, marital status—even children of the same parents—and they would still have very different life experiences.

Life happens in the moments, and this is why we must have faith the size of a mustard seed. Our faith must be applied and fit into our moments.

I used to ask God for things in the story arc. God, I believe you will help me get accepted into grad school. I believe you will sustain our marriage and grant us children. I believe you for a career in media and arts, etc. I always believed God for the mustard tree outcomes of things, but I have learned over time that I cannot just apply my faith to the story arc. I have to apply my faith in every scene, in every moment, in what we as artists in cinema call “the beat.”

The beat is like the mustard seed. It is pregnant with potential. The only way to birth that potential is to plant the seed and care for it. Planting our seeds of faith must happen beat by beat or moment by moment.

It’s not the vision that prevails, it’s the faithful pursuit of the vision moment by moment. Some of us have faith for our lives over the arc of our stories, but we miss the preciousness of our moments, tense from anxiety about how the story should, could, and would, unfold if.

What if we eliminated “if,” and we decided that our happily ever after really takes place in the beat of the moment. I call this “right now faith,” and this is a practice that has helped me move from grace to grace over and over again. “Right now faith” supersedes worry and pressure about tomorrow. It is the planting of our faith in the here and now, watering it, and putting it in the light of today that breaks it open and eventually transforms it into our heart’s desire as it grows.

I have found that the best way to measure my faith is moment by moment. I don’t need faith for tomorrow. I need faith today and right now. Faith is my manna and my daily bread. My faith sustains me. My faith keeps my heart on beat and my breath flowing freely.

Just like we cannot hold our breath until tomorrow, we also cannot hold our faith until the desired outcomes of our heart appear. We must release our faith with our breath into the light of today. I have found that this way of measuring faith guarantees my peace and my power as a child of God.

Something to Think About:

Is there something that you have been holding your breath for waiting and hoping to happen?

Can you release your faith into your present reality?

If so, can you sustain this release of faith moment by moment?

Something to Do:

On a piece of paper make two columns. In column A make a list of all your worries. In column B, make a list of all your desired outcomes. Fold the paper in half on the line separating the columns. Place this piece of paper in a safe space with easy accessibility. Anytime you feel worried, take the paper out and read column B. Anytime you feel grateful take the paper out and read column B. If you want, throw column A in the trash: you have no need for it.


Thank you, God for an unlimited supply of oxygen. Every day we can return to the awareness of our breath as a reminder of your abundance. Thank you, God for your peace: it is as sweet as honey. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Mustard Seed Faith

Clarissa Middleton

Artist and Business Consultant

Clarissa Joan Middleton is an artist and business consultant committed to making media for social change. On May 10, 2019, Clarissa graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with her MFA in Interactive Media. Her thesis “Cognitive Science, Belief, and Interactive Media as a Dist...

More on Clarissa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn