I’ve been reminded recently of the intensely personal nature of our faith The act of faith is an eminently personal act that takes place in the most intimate depths of our being. For some faith has been relegated to an intellectual or academic exercise. I’ve found in my personal observation, however, that regardless of the construct of our relationship with God, that our belief system is at the core of our very beings.
There is within us a longing for a better world, a belief that this world is not the end of life and that there is opportunity for a return to the Garden of Eden, and a relationship with God that has not existed since Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the apple. In each one of us there is a hope that we will one day be restored to that secure relationship with the God who created the universe. This awareness that in our heart of hearts we are spiritual beings and that part of us is so core to our internal identity, has been brought home time and again over the past 15 years for me.
The words of 2 Corinthians 4:18 are more applicable than most would be willing to acknowledge. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I mentioned the centrality of our faith regardless of the construct of our relationship with God, above. I’ll share just a few personal observations:
The recent retirement of the Pope has shaken the roots of many in the Catholic church. No Pope has retired in the last 600 years. What does this say about Christ’s representative in that church? Should he not be serving until God takes him away? The Pope’s retirement left many in the Catholic church shaken and bewildered.
A friend whom to my knowledge is an agnostic, at least by behavior and external appearances, recently had her world rocked by surprising news that brought back years of pain. After I reached out with the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my heart, she responded with deep appreciation and a clear confidence that prayer would be a great help for her and her family.
I recently had my world rocked by a trusted and respected person casting doubt on the accuracy of scripture. I have to admit that my response in this situation has been troubling to members of my family. I also am able to see that my values and my belief system make me the man that I am and as I work my way through this I can see that I am not struggling against flesh and blood, but the battle is in the spiritual realm.
Another friend lost a family member and a job, and was having trouble finding a new job all of which left her wondering where God was in her life. Through a long-term series of conversations, and connecting her with others who were able to converse with her about her faith and who God is, she has once again found her faith and is able to move forward in her life.
While serving in a leadership capacity in a church, some very difficult decisions had to be made. The reaction of several of our congregants served notice that they had been touched at the core of their being. The church served as a vital link in the connection with God and some of the decisions of leadership caused them to question that link. Those decisions affected them at a deeply personal level.
So what is it? Why is it not appropriate to have public expressions of one’s faith and then an entire community gathers in prayer vigil for those lost in disasters and sing Amazing Grace? In times of stress, disaster and loss of life, our deepest yearnings are released. Our walk of faith is strengthened through the trials of life. We get into difficulty and realize we need help from a higher power. In calling out to that higher power, don’t we acknowledge the very existence and omnipotence (so powerful He can affect our current circumstances) to which we make our appeal? Further, in making our appeals, don’t we acknowledge that He may even care about our circumstances?
We have just come through the Easter season. Easter is one of those holy days when masses of people feel it is important to reconnect with God; many of whom normally don’t darken the doors of the church. The resurrection of Jesus is remembered on Easter Sunday. It is a day of hope. There is hope that Jesus will one day return and take us to a world that restores our edenic relationship with the God of the universe. The secret unspoken desires that the brokenness of this world will pass away. We know this world is broken but don’t know how to fix it. The words found in the scriptures are discounted as irrelevant and judgmental. Yet it is to this source of foundational truth that we turn in times of trouble and distress for comfort and reflection on God’s desires for His people.
I would argue that we are allowing the state to stifle public expression of the Christian faith in the name of separation of church and state, yet in our inmost being have this God shaped hole that begs to be filled. Much more can be said on this subject, but for now I leave the question … why does a community banish God from public expression until disaster strikes and we come together to pray in halls of worship?