Curiously, I am not often asked by people how they can grow their faith lives. Perhaps that’s because Old First is some kind of spiritual Lake Wobegon “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
Or people are satisfied with how their faith is growing?
Or they aren’t concerned about such things!
Or they figure it’s something you don’t really have much say in or control over, like how tall you are going to end up.
Or they doubt — or it doesn’t occur to them — I have anything to offer!
But twice in as many days, I have heard some version of such a question.
Monday was my first day in the office after vacation. And I realized that per our second Wednesday schedule, our Midday Meeting — the church’s monthly fellowship group for folks free in the daytime — was to be two days hence, on Wednesday, January 8. But we had neither announced it nor planned any program for it.
So I called Jackie, who at this point, is the lay person who works with me on Midday Meeting. She agreed that we could move it back a week, and she suggested as program — “can we do something on learning to pray?”
As I wrote the Midday Meeting crowd: “Our topic will be ‘Learning to Pray.’ Well not exactly — I assume most of us know how to pray. But, I bet, we could pray more, and more often, and more deeply than we actually do. So let’s call it, ‘Growing in Prayer.’ (Prayer is like a wild bird — it takes a long time to coax it into a cage to become part of your life. And if you leave the door to that cage open, even for just a second, the bird escapes again!) We could all pray more….”
We will be meeting this coming Wednesday, January 15 at 1 pm in the Social Hall. We bring brown bag lunches. All are welcome.
The second request for some advice on spiritual growth came the next day. A young person who worships with us from time to time called the office and asked to speak to me. There is a lot going on in her life currently, and, like all of us, she is also carrying with her some hurts and unresolved complexities from her past, some tracing back to her painful childhood. She can imagine that her life could be better with more support, and she wonders if that could come from God, or faith or the church.
Her mother is a very faithful Roman Catholic who raised her daughter in the church. The young woman moved away from the Catholic Church over theological differences, but has not given up on the wider church completely.
Her mom always tells her daughter, she needs to just trust in God. The young woman can see how faith upholds her mom, and adds depth and richness to her mother’s life. She recognizes that with all she’s going through, she could use additional support right now. But she says she hasn’t quite ever made it to faith. She’d like to believe, but how?
She wonders what it might be like, instead of feeling she only has herself to rely on, to feel God’s presence, care and support. What would it mean for her to trust God?
Surely it doesn’t mean she can take her hands off the steering wheel! She understands that faith is not about God taking care of everything. Even if she knew and could trust God’s presence and love more, she knows she is still going to take care of herself, to have to act in her own interests and according to her needs. But wouldn’t her life really be easier, better, if she could make it over the hurdles she sees to really believing?
She and I are going to meet again, and we are going to see if we can come up with a plan to help her exercise the little faith she has (even if now she mostly experiences that as a desire to believe). I think with some reflection and prayer and acting as if she believes… I think she might see her faith grow.
Anyway, I tell you all this simply to ask you about how you see your own faith life? Is it like your height — it was in your genes that you were going to turn out 5’7″?
Or is it a gift one-time given — you get as much faith as God cares to dole out?
Or is it something that happens to you in the course of time, like wrinkles and building up a retirement account?
Or could faith be something not only that you desire, but choose to make a goal and set aside time and effort to work on?
What are your metrics for your faith life? Do you have spiritual goals? I’d love to speak with any of you about all this. As I have tried to say, I think we can grow in faith, that the church has resources to offer, and you can be intentional about it if you are willing to make the personal investment.
See you in church,