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Faith Journey?

August 13, 2012

I was asked to share my faith journey with our Sunday School class this coming Sunday.

What???

After people encouraging me (plus being asked publicly, in front of the group, which made it hard to say no), I agreed.  When I got home from church, I sat down with my clipboard and my blank paper.  I grabbed a pen and stared at the page.  The whiteness of the paper seemed glaring, almost blinding, like a winter sun reflecting off a heavy blanket of snow (it’s hot in Texas right now, I am dreaming of cooler times).

I filled up one side of the paper and turned to Curtis.  I shared my story…my Mennonite upbringing with a strong emphasis on the Bible, like memorizing the Sermon on the Mount in 10th grade, government class which was shaped by a quarter studying about what the Bible said about the combination of church and state….dramatic, tragic, life-changing events in my life….a semester in Central America…15 months of Voluntary Service….reading…. doubt…. ….returning.  I felt like I had just emptied myself of everything closest to me that had ever occurred in my life.

That’s not your faith journey, that’s your history.

Curtis’s response was simple and true.  It wasn’t my faith journey.  It was important events that I had lived through.

I wondered out loud.  Could my faith journey be a list of books I read that influenced me and why?  (Top 10 Spiritually Influential books anyone?  I had already done that thinking).  No, again, that was chickening out, Curtis informed me.  That wasn’t really my faith journey.  It was a pretty good book list, but again, not what I was asked to do.

I turned the paper over and started again.  At the top of the page I wrote a quote from Rachel Held Evans’s book, Evolving in Monkey Town.

My story is about that kind of evolution.  It’s about moving from certainty, through doubt, to faith.

I wrote down my journey then.  I started with the certainty.  I hit the high points, some of the same in my first draft, including the importance of reading the Bible.  The doubt seemed to flow naturally, followed by the strengthening of faith.  God is always faithful.  Back and forth the journey continued, doubt into faith.  Doubt into faith.  Over and over.  Darkness broken by light slipping through the cracks of the faith I once had.

The paper still sits in the clipboard.  I am still unsure about it.  I read it and wonder if I have used the formula of certainty…doubt…faith as a narrative to hide behind.  I wonder if I am humble enough.  I wonder if I’ve said what I really want to share.  I wonder what I want to share.

Since filling the page with words, sticks drug across the heavy snow, blemishes on the whiteness, I have thought about my words a lot.  I wonder if the group really wants to hear my faith journey or if they are more interested in a class on Mennonites, book suggestions, or just my own personal history.   Can I just share how I am failing at the task of being made in God’s image and of being holy, just like my Father in Heaven is holy?

I am tempted to sermonize.  I could talk about how my journey brought me to the place that helped me realize that my journey is but one, and others’ may look very different from mine and that is OK.  Maybe I could say that I have fallen in love with Bible, I love the words within, the promises of God love liberally distributed both the Old and New Testament.  I could explain how my time in my chair in the corner of my room helps me to breathe a little more deeply each day, how I look forward all day to the time I get to read the Bible, read a devotional, and pray.  I could admit that I am no more a Methodist than a Mennonite, maybe still a little less, even though that is the church I am attending.  I am drawn to Episcopalians and the Book of Common Prayer–the Book that once scared me away from the little Episcopalian church I had been attending.  I don’t think I would run from that now, I find comfort in the liturgy, in the words prayed as a community.

What I really want to do is go through all my journals…probably four or five of them since my college years in which I’ve collected the words of others, ancient wisdom of Desert Mothers and Fathers, the words of Prophets and of Jesus, the words of my patron saints like CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Joan Chittister, and Henri Nouwen.  I want to just share those words of others who are more eloquent than I.  I feel like Moses, pleading with God, don’t send me, I can not talk.  Let me use the words of those who are writers.

That’s not my faith journey either.  All of these things are pieces.  All are important.  I’ll continue to think about my what I will say.  I’ll continue to ask for guidance and wisdom from the greatest author of all times, the One who has been present with me every step of this journey.

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