This guest post was written by Sandy Brunsting.
My faith journey has changed dramatically.
I grew up in a fairly traditional mainline church and never actually gave my faith and worldview much thought. It wasn’t until I got married and had my own family that I really bought into it.
And then we ran into this situation at church. It was distressing and messy and we parted ways with our former congregation about ten years ago. For a long time I felt like an exile. It caused a crisis of faith, which, in retrospect, was very healthy.
Since then, my perspective has changed (and grown, I hope). I have come to realize how little we can actually know God. The more I learn about God, the more I see how unknowable he actually is. You can’t put God in a box; as soon as you do, he’s not God anymore but an image of your own making.
I have also come to see Jesus as absolutely central to faith. Without him, it doesn’t make sense. He is love and compassion and truth, he is resurrection in all the dead places in life, he is inclusive and kind to outcasts and to the outcast places of my heart. And I am sure he is way bigger and much more inclusive than we can imagine.
I have read numerous books and listened to many talks from teachers and authors of all kinds. I have noticed that some of the best teaching, and some of the worst, have been from Christian sources. Influential guides on my journey have been writers, spiritual leaders, mystics, and scientists, who have in common a passion for truth, wisdom, love for humans and the Divine, and compassion for the marginalized. For me, these people are wise thinkers and truth speakers.
Some of the lessons I have learned:
- “Everything is spiritual” (Rob Bell). This goes back to basics for me: all of life and everything in the universe is created and sustained by God. Everything has a dimension beyond the physical, measurable data available to our senses. And everything we do ripples like pebbles in a pond into the spiritual and the eternal. “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito” (C.S. Lewis).
- “All truth is from God” (Richard Rohr). Whether it is spoken by a Christian teacher or a wise friend or an atheist, if it is true, it is from God. We are, after all, created in his image so it should be no surprise that some wisdom, truth, and goodness can be found in any of us. God gives common grace to everyone.
- Find your core beliefs. I needed to find what I actually believed. For example, I found that membership in a particular church was peripheral to faith, but the resurrection was a core belief.
- Doubt is okay. Sometimes I just have to take a step back from what I’m reading or listening to and give it time. Doubt can be really scary, but it can also pave the way to finding truth.
- Fundamentalism limits truth. Whether it is Christian, Islamic, Atheist, or any other kind of fundamentalism, holding tightly to your own black and white view of the world narrows your vision so much that you can’t see value or truth in anyone else’s beliefs. You can miss the love, the common grace, and the wisdom found all around you. “We don’t have the market cornered on wisdom” (Rabbi Jonathon Sacks).
- “There is no divide between the sacred and the secular” (Skye Jethani). Work of significance is not separated into spiritual vocations and everyday things. Everything I do, whether making dinner, or working at a job, or writing this blog is all basically spiritual in essence and has value. It is done for the glory of God … or it isn’t.
- Everything I do here has eternal value. This life isn’t just a prelude to heaven, but heaven is already breaking through into earth right now. God is redeeming creation bit by bit right here, right now. Someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and I believe that anything which is done here in love or any brokenness which finds redemption now will have a place in the new creation.
- “Serve the poor” (Pope Francis) or as Shane Claiborne said after visiting Mother Teresa, “Find your Calcutta.” There is enough poverty of all kinds that we can find a place to serve which is suited to who we are. Find your place of service and let love be your guide.
- Keep learning and growing.
- It has to have the ring of truth about it.
- It has to resonate with me at a heart level and it has to make some kind of sense.
- I believe that God teaches us things when we are ready to learn them so it should feel like it fits with where I am.
- It should find a complementary space around my core beliefs.
- But most importantly, it should reflect love.
At the end of the day, it’s all about love. If I don’t have love, nothing else makes sense because in the end, love wins.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
About Sandy Brunsting