In recent months my faith life felt stagnant. I felt a thirst for deepness, as if I had been simply skimming the surface. My connection to God was weak – like a phone call with a bad connection. I would catch myself blaming: I didn’t have time for the adult study I wanted, the sermons and scripture readings each Sunday did not speak to me.
In reality, there was no one to blame but myself.
The thought of digging deeper in our faith might seem exhausting. So we think we can be content to live at the surface – understanding that “God is love” but never considering how that is actually lived out. Or, we might believe that uttering those unanswerable questions out loud will push us away from faith and from community. But in reality, those questions and the discussions that follow pull us in.
Ephesians 4:12-14 keeps finding its way into my life lately. In verses 13 and 14, Paul writes that we were equipped to attain knowledge of the Son of God – so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro. I have wrestled with these words over the last few months. Paul advises us to be mature in our faith – to dig deep!
How do I balance that with having “child-like” faith? I found a writing from almost 2 years ago with an opposite spin. At the time, I was envious of my daughter’s simple approach to faith. I said we need to let the logic of my 2-year-old reign, knowing the cross is proof that Jesus loves:
“What more do we need to understand? Yes – we should ask questions and discuss and dig deeper into our faith, but we can’t let it overcome the pinnacle of our faith and the reason we seek relationship with God.” (Do we overcomplicate faith?)
Good advice. We must ask questions – we must dig deep. Our questions bring us closer to God, and help us understand just how deeply and wholly God loves!
At a recent adult faith formation retreat, we discussed those old felt story board versions of Old Testament stories we often tell our kids. We avoid the dark endings, and therefore miss the whole story and the lesson to be learned. Another prompting to dig deep, even if it might be messy.
Early this summer, I learned that a certain Lutheran seminary offered courses for regular people like me. I found myself on their mailing list, and the emails arrived quickly and frequently. Though I sincerely yearned for deepness, I was afraid of the commitment, and afraid I would fail. Late in August, yet another email arrived. This email, however, had actual course offerings; real life opportunities for me to seek that deepness I craved! I found myself sitting at my desk at work, just staring at this email. I wondered how I could possibly take a step forward; but I also wondered how I could possibly let this opportunity pass me by!
Through divine intervention I’m sure, I was quickly registered to obtain a Certificate in Theological Studies (an 8-course program with courses covering Bible, church history, Theology and more). Within days I am signed up for my first course, Psalms in the Life of the Church. I order the textbooks, find the syllabus, and see the many pages of assigned weekly readings. I wonder what I have gotten myself into!
The course on Psalms begins. I watch the videos, read the texts, and participate in online discussions. It is all immensely insightful, deepening both knowledge and spiritual connection. Our first week focuses on Psalm 1 which uses imagery of a tree, strong and deeply rooted. The tree serves as a metaphor for one who is open to God’s instruction, with a place to stand and a solid foundation. Being open to God’s instruction (digging deep) enables us to live with purpose in a world of confusion! I grab a hold of that old, familiar sense of being rooted – my thirst is being quenched!
During our very first week, I read from one particularly delightful assigned text, A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms by Clint McCann. He writes: “For the Christian, it is helpful to think of openness to God’s instruction in terms of what Paul calls ‘maturity.’”
I read slowly, beginning to sense what is coming next. It was late at night and I sat in my living room alone. I continued to read, and McCann then cites those same verses from Ephesians that I’ve been pondering for weeks. I was overcome by emotion; I could sense God’s presence! I set my books down and literally stood up in the middle of the room. I spun around as if to see if God was somehow physically present!
Where I had questioned only a short time before what I was getting into, concerned about the depths I could go and the time I could commit, I then knew I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. That is the joy and contentment we seek!
So this will be a fun adventure for me and my family. If you read my words every week, I’ll be curious to know if you think my writing style changes. Through my writing I seek to connect, and I do not want to lose sight of that! Prayers, as always, are appreciated!