One of the most important aspects of our spiritual journey is the process we go through to define what it is we believe and why. Added to that, how do those beliefs live out in our daily lives? I serve on a committee for our denomination to guide the seminarians through the process toward ordination. Part of their process is their seminary courses, and the completion of specific courses that will enhance their lives as pastors, including a specific understanding of who we are as those within our particular denomination. So, there are two different times when the candidate is asked to write a statement of faith: when they are moving from inquirer to candidate, and also when they are having their final assessment. Their final statement of faith, will hopefully be a clear description of what the candidate believes about God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, Scripture, the Church, and eschatology. But, the true test is how can the candidate write this statement, touching on all the main points, and yet not have their statement come out sounding the same as everyone elses. This final statement of faith, they defend on the floor of Presbytery, being examined by the Pastors and elders of the Presbytery.
It is a good exercise to write a statement of faith. To really take the time to sort out, what we believe, to express who we are, and take the time to examine our own hearts. It is important for us to have a faith statement that reflects our own heart, and not only what we have been told throughout our earlier lives. What I love about the exercise, having done quite a few in the last 25 years, is how they change. What I may have expressed while still in seminary, I may not say today, or at least not in the same words. I might emphasize different aspects of God now that I have gleaned from new life experiences, that caused new questions to come to the surface and others to be answered.
What I can honestly say, is the older I get, the more I am comfortable with mystery. I used to feel that I had to have very definite answers, as if neglecting to have the answers would somehow be a reflection of weak faith. Not anymore! Now I am very comfortable to say that I don't have all the answers and that is ok. In fact, I would say to have the inclination that we could have all the answers is extremely naive, and reveals a very small God. I now feel that as each day goes by, I develop more questions. But as I live with the unanswered questions, tucked down in my heart somewhere, as with Mary, "who pondered these things in her heart" that I eventually come to a place of deeper understanding, and a constant movement toward spiritual maturity.
There are those who take a more literal approach to life in general. They are ones who need to have the answers. For these individuals most of life is pretty black and white, and the presentation of another belief from outside of themselves or their faith community causes deep fear. Pronouncements are made, and the limits of the box they choose to live in, are put in place, but by that very process, limits God, and the universe. When life reveals the gray areas that challenge those beliefs, they often realize that their faith was more like a house of cards, and it comes tumbling down. Or those who challenge their beliefs, are attacked in anger.
But then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are others who are so open, and broad in thought, that they have no anchor. They believe in so much they don't really believe in anything at all.
Both extremes are dangerous. We all have to find a landing point. Some of that comes with age and experience; some would call that wisdom. But I like the concept of a spiritual journey. It has a beginning and a destination, and their are stopping places along the way. It is a constant moving, hopefully never static, and the scenery changes. As we continue moving forward; and as we stop for awhile along the way, in some places longer than others, we discover who we truly are, who we were created to be; what our passions are and our gifts. We also discover the things about ourselves where we need healing, and a deeper understanding. But if we never stop asking the questions, and we realize that life is very much on a continuum, entrusting ourselves to God who holds us and reminds us we are loved, we will arrive at that final destination in tact. And hopefully filled with a deep sense of knowing and being known.