I’ve been thinking a lot about my faith the last couple of weeks. It’s been an important part of who I am, and has shaped so much of my life so far. But as my life changes, it needs to change too.
My faith to this point has been wonderful, personal and relatively stable. I have believed a few things:
- There is a personable God who created everything, very intentionally
- He’s the one described – and shown to us – by Jesus of Nazareth
- For every hurting person, God can offer hope and restoration
- God is deeply relational, and does not offer this hope and restoration as a generic service to all, but rather, as a deeply personal gift, in the hope to draw us into a loving relationship with him.
- Out of this loving relationship, (and not out of guilt or coercion), we are drawn to want what he wants – and to see the world the way he sees it, and to join him in the work of helping other people – each with their own lives and most with their own hurts – find the same hope and restoration and loving relationship with God.
Writing this down, I know I still believe all of this. But my conviction of it’s truth, and of it’s necessity, has dropped way down. See up until last year I was so involved volunteering in my church (trying to help on that last dot point – helping people find God), that I would be at a church meeting three maybe even four times per week, often leading and having to stay grounded in what I believe.
This year, I’ve pulled back significantly, and next year, I’ll pull back more.
And what I’ve found so far, is that without being in the church environment constantly – my faith is quickly forgotten. It quickly becomes a side issue, and I am no longer convinced of the truth or the relevance of it – everything else seems more pressing, more concrete, more appealing.
Here’s what I suspect:
- Like any friendship, a relationship with God requires upkeep – you need to spend time together.
- I am particularly bad at “making time” for my real friends, and unless they happen to be where I happen to be (work, parties, sport, church etc), we often don’t make time to catch up. Same with God – unless I’ve got something in my pre-defined schedule where I’m expecting to meet him, I’m less likely to.
- Even though God is everywhere, I still was dependent on church events to help me focus on him, and so the vast majority of my time spent building my relationship with God was because I was at church and that’s what you do there.
- Now that I’ve withdrawn and may only be at church once a week (or less!) I’ve lost pretty much all the time I would spend with God.
- With that relationship not getting nurtured, of course all the other parts of my faith are going to go stale too. Phil Baker talks about the tree and the branches (he probably got that one off Jesus). If the tree is healthy, so are the branches. If the branches are unhealthy, it’s probably because of the tree. If the other areas of my faith – volunteering, reaching out to others, serving the poor and hurting – are not feeling very alive, it’s probably because the tree on which those branches grow is struggling. Make the tree good, and the branches will be good.
Years ago I wrote myself a personal mission statement:
- To love YHWH, my God, with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
- To love my family and be loved by them.
- To help build the church.
I think the last few years have been dominated by that 3rd dot point. And that 3rd dot point took up so much of my time, that the first two have been neglected.