I have read and written so much about matters of faith for so many years that I finally got tired of it. I felt like that’s pretty much all I have to say on the topic. In the process, I fell in love with writing and began writing about other topics.
Throughout my personal pilgrimage, I have encountered many others who were on a similar journey. Together, we struggled with some of the practices of the institutional church and were trying to find a faith that was real, something we could embrace. So, now after shying away from writing about these issues for a while, I think it’s time for me to occasionally dip my toe back in the water.
This is going to be really personal and about what has been happening with me. I know some of you are still on this journey. So, maybe we can help each other.
I remember those early days of feeling spiritually homeless and only knowing what I opposed to and not what I felt I could, on good conscience, support. I felt like I was stuck there for a long time. Happily, I no longer feel that way.
Here are some of things that have developed for me. This what I believe. It’s kind of sketchy. I still have a lot of questions, which I am likely to take up in later posts.
- I don’t have everything figured out. I don’t think I need to anymore, and I don’t think I am capable of it. This is quite of a departure from my many years of belief in a system of theology and feeling the need to have an answer for everything. Human beings are hard to really to know, because we’re complex. Certainly, for us to completely know the mind of God must be beyond us as well.
- I am not mad or snobbish toward people who continue to find fulfillment through involvement with the institutional church. We all are at different places. If I wasn’t pushed to edge, I wouldn’t have ever questioned my involvement either.
- I feel more integrated. Faith and life are more mixed together. The sacred and secular are one. I don’t feel like I need to do something “religious.” I don’t feel like I must go to church, read the Bible, pray, or tithe. I am certainly not opposed to them, I just don’t feel I have to do these things. Honestly, after being so emerged in that life for so long, I got tired of this stuff. I got tired of the Sunday production and the sermon pep talk or guilt trip. The Bible became overly familiar for me. I never stopped praying however, though I severely backed away from public prayer. I don’t want to be a performer. I came to believe there were other ways to honor God with money besides giving it to the church. I began seeing God in strange places and in many different places, which is one of the great joys of my newer way of believing.
Finally focused on three values that I wanted for me and for others.
Throughout my life I often struggled with inner peace. I seemed to look for reasons to felt guilty or shameful. Now, I realize that because of who God is and who Jesus is and how he regards me, things couldn’t possibly be any better between us. This whole relationship is up to him and not me and that makes me love him more. If I can be at peace with God and myself, I can be at peace with others and be an advocate for peace.
I was always trying to figure how to fix people, probably an occupational hazard of being a pastor. These days I try to figure out how to love them because that is the most transformational thing I can do, and it’s my “job.”
It seems like vocational fulfillment has been illusive for much of my life. I have a huge need to experience meaningfulness and purposefulness. Finally, I have settled on the concept of joy. That has two aspects in my life. One is trying to be true to myself and who God made me and the other is to recognize my many blessings and find joy in the little things I encounter every day. It helps me to fully present in the moment and bring a little light into someone else’s life.
As I recently posted, I believe a real faith is one that has been challenged by difficult circumstances, doubts, and questions. That kind of faith is very different than a hand-me-down, institutional-oriented, politicized way of believing.
The challenges which cause us to go back to test and evaluate what we really believe are well-disguised blessings which move us toward a real faith.
It’s been a long time since the days of the synchroblog. Our journeys have been very different. I saw this after updating my own blog.
You are saying, “What do I believe?” and I’m asking the question, “What does it mean to you to believe in God?” with a view to encouraging others to share their thoughts as a way of developing more meaningful conversations with people who may have been on very different journeys.
I’ve never had a leadership role but at the age of 82 I sense I still have something to offer. I have been away from traditional Christianity for over 45 years and I realise that my blog is too verbose for many younger people with their work and family responsibilities.
I’d be very interested to know what you think of my approach. This is very much a work-in-progress that I will be sharing with a few friends over the next week or so.
Peter – You ask really good questions.
Hi Glenn, another enjoyable article that pretty well matches my feelings with institutional church and the experience I have had in it…and leaving it. Thanks for putting into words what many of us think and feel. It is good to know we are not alone in this quest for meaningful and daily fellowship with our Father.