I am brand new to wondercafe.ca and I jumped right in commenting on a controversial post earlier. But it got me thinking a bit about my own journey. Thanks for having me. I think I'm going to like it here.
When I look back on my journey of faith I cannot pinpoint when my ideas and beliefs about God changed. I can remember instances of feeling disillusioned or battling internal conflict. Times of feeling immense joy and love. I can remember the United Church being the liberal church I attended and myself, the conservative, opposing changes that were made to hymns, or prayers or the subtle changes in the reading of scripture. I can even remember (I’m ashamed to say) being opposed to the Ordination into Ministry of gays and lesbians when it was an issue in the late 80’s.
And then I found myself, not knowing how, on the other side of this invisible line looking back at a former self and thinking, “Did I believe that”? or “Did I really have that reaction”? And it was a wondrous place to be. For me, I had evolved spiritually over the years in a faith formed by life experiences, both tragic and wonderful experiences. I was no longer a person believing because I was told to believe or because I happened to be born into a Christian family. I believed, worshipped and praised God because I experienced God.
But then something happened. I began questioning other’s beliefs wondering how could they think the same old way? Why didn’t they change? Why were they not in the same place as I? I began to think I had the right answer, I was on the right path.
This is not such a wondrous place to be.
I sometimes am critical of what I call fundamental Christianity because I find it does not allow room for others to experience God in any way that does not conform to their way. But here, I found myself in danger of being just as fundamental, only at the other end of the spectrum.
Of course, I didn’t realize this until I happened to attend a church study group a few years ago and as I sat listening to the conversation, I was having difficulty relating to what was being said. Then a woman, who tended to be quiet at these groups, spoke up saying a few words that affected me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. She said in response to the conversation “I tried thinking outside the box once and I couldn’t handle it. I had to get back inside the box”. Maybe it was her tone of voice, maybe it was the little bit I knew of her life, but her words had a big impact on me. Her words, in fact, humbled me. I credit her for opening my eyes to my own narrow mindedness. In my efforts, in my pride, to be open minded, I became the fundamentalist in thinking this was the only path that everyone would travel at some point.
The earthquake in Haiti reaffirmed this experience for me when I read articles about victims of the quake going to a collapsed church and praying to God to relieve their suffering and I read comments from self-proclaimed atheists saying how inane this behaviour was. But it struck me, this is their faith and it is sustaining them through an event I couldn’t imagine going through. No observer's opinion could change that. The fact it gives them strength and courage is evidence it is very real.
We can perceive ourselves as growing in faith, even look back and marvel at our journey but if we ever question another’s journey as not holding the same validity because it does not meet our expectations of who God is, then we ourselves are ceasing to grow.
You see, faith doesn’t depend on someone else’s approval. This is a wondrous thing.