One time when I was a kid, I accompanied my mother shopping at Walmart. She was looking through various racks of clothes which didn't set my heart ablaze with excitement. After waiting and waiting for what seemed like forever (and for a young boy it probably was) I decided I needed a plan to use my time. I quickly asked my mother if I could go look at the toys to which she agreed. I leapt down the aisles with a new found freedom from being released from the terrors of shopping.
rThe toy aisle had all my favorites and immediately lifted my spirits. I went from row to row exploring every last item, forgetting about the time. Somewhere in the midst of my exploration, I realized I had been gone for quite sometime and hurried back to where I had last seen my mother.
When I got there, I looked carefully for her but found no trace. I was flushed with worry, thinking I was lost in this big store and didn't know if I would find my mother. Naturally I did the smartest and most systematic thing possible, run furiously down the aisles. :) Tears began flowing down my face as my heart beat faster and faster.
Suddenly, I came around a rack and saw my mother calmly, gazing at clothes. She looked up and noticed my crying and worried look and immediately came to me. Her embrace calmed every fear and worry I had. In that moment I knew I was ok, that I was found. Of course my mother asked, What was going on? I quickly told her, "I thought I lost her." But my mother knew where I was and the time that passed was just a small amount. I still remember the joy I felt having found those loving arms again.
Our Faith Journey
I think this story can easily transfer over to our faith journey. Spiritually we may feel lost, scared and alone. We aren't for sure where to look next and what question to ask. We run furiously panicking to find what is right. Some of us may have even stopped looking and decided we are on our own. Wherever you are on your faith journey, I believe there is a long embrace waiting for you. A hug that will remove those fears and worries leaving you completely vulnerable and yet loved. The continued searching of your heart and mind will hopefully lead you to a faith community. Remember God knows exactly where you are and is waiting to embrace you. Take your time and slowly come to your destination.
Faith is meant to be lived out with other people. Through others we are able to find God and share the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. Faith communities focus us on relationships, deepening our faith in the process. Faith communities grow us spiritually and push us beyond our comfort zones so our gifts and talents can be fully utilized and shared. It is in community where we fully become aware of the wholeness of God in our lives. For those that do not have a faith community, I encourage you to courageously search for one that fits you; one in which love can grow where previous pain has been. Unsure where to go, check out the nearest Community of Christ by clicking here. If this is too big of step, please contact me and I would be happy to be a part of your faith community.
What Can You Do
Its important to ask yourself various questions about what you are searching for. Each has value and importance in leading you down the path that is right for you.
What experiences have led you to where you are at today?
What does your potential faith community look like and feel like?
What would your faith community be active in doing or living out?
What do you feel spiritually passionate about?
What specific part of your faith are you struggling with?
Who might be someone you could talk with about your searching?
Please hug someone this week! Give them a long embrace letting them know you love them! Also go to our activities page to see when our next small group is as we would love to have you join us!
American Theologian James Fowler wrote a book called "Stages of Faith" which identified a human faith development process. This link Stages of Faith through psychologycharts.com gives you a visual perspective of the process. I find this document extremely helpful with understanding mine and others spiritual journey.
There Is No Right Stage
Everyone is at a different spot on their spiritual journey. Key words their faith journey, not yours. Truth comes from many experiences and stages. It's important we acknowledge and value people where they are at. Sometimes it can be frustrating when we do not see other people questioning or thinking in similar ways about faith. But that's the beauty of faith development. It's a personal process that every individual dictates. As a welcoming community we need to be supportive of where others are and the belief systems they have. Dialogue is an excellent tool to gain understanding and needs to be used with respect in an essence of knowledge seeking not for the purpose of changing others. It's also important not to push others into a faith crisis. People will move on in their own time, and the pushing more than likely will cause a greater division rather than openness.
Individual growth is personal and happens differently for each person. These changes occurring deep within us or in our own understandings often leave us feeling alone. Churches in particular have a history of struggling to help individuals in this process. Contentions with what has been taught in church or the bible can cause individuals to be quiet for fear of being outcast or judged. Lack of communication and transparency heightens these fears. I want to assure you there are some churches who will assist in helping you work through your changing belief system without judgement. So be courageous and openly and honestly talk with others about your questioning.
Stage 5 - Focus On Community
I want to draw attention to Stage 5. It states truth can be found from many different experiences and begins to put more credibility in the aspect of community rather than individualism. The stage also identifies people gaining an understanding of life being full of mystery, removing the fear of individuals from having to have the right answers.
I find the idea of our community being the driving force behind our faith compelling. Living in community with others being the key aspect of faith. What this means is truly living out discipleship must be in conjunction with a community. It is in community where our faith grows and we respond in compassionate ways to assist others. Our focus changes from ourselves to the community, those around me that are continually in my presence.
Where Are YOU At?
I choose to live out my faith journey with Community of Christ. The emphasis on community and holding up the worth of all people speaks to who I am and what I feel God is about in this world.
How are you living out your faith journey? What stage of faith are you in? What communities are important for you? Who is driving you to a deeper faith connection? How does your community reflect you beliefs?
Thank you for all those reading and following along! Please share a question of faith you have with someone in your community. If you are uncomfortable with that please go to the contact us page and I will be happy to talk with you.
Many people struggle with this critical question when unfortunate events strike. Death, abuse, and loss are just some examples prompting this question. At nine years old I asked this question when my father unexpectedly died in a tragic accident. He was volunteering to help build a church in a neighboring town when a strong gust of wind moved a truss, knocking my father off the building. Between the tears, anger, and small bouts of depression I experienced I have continued to work through this deep question of life. I am sure many of you have also been struck by difficult life events. The hurt is real and I sincerely hope your healing process has begun. But is there something more we can do to address the hurting among our communities and answer this timeless question for ourselves?
Leave Out Common Phrases
After tragic life events I hear many common phrases which make me cringe. For example: “God only gives you what you can handle”, “This will only make you stronger”, “It’s God's Will”, “They're in a better place” or “This is just a test from God.” I think we often misunderstand how these well known phrases impact others. When these phrases are used God becomes connected to or even responsible for these events and we miss the opportunity to acknowledge the pain that is present. Instead of offering impossible answers, focus on being comforting; express your sorrow for their loss, help out with specific things the person needs done, or provide a welcoming presence and listening ear.
Listen and Understand
It is natural to try to avoid or remove pain, especially when it comes to those we love. "You're ok", "I've seen worse", or "I will handle it for you," are just a few common responses. Saying these phrases does not take away the pain, but instead minimizes the person's feelings. We must allow others to feel what they are experiencing, such as rejection, guilt, or loneliness. Again the most important role for us is to listen and be there for the individual. God has made you, so your presence can be comforting, your ears can listen, your words can be empathetic, and your heart can love.
Ask Deeper Questions About God
God is supposed to be all powerful, all knowing, and always present. Then why does God allow terrible things to happen if God knows they will happen and has the power to stop them? What if God is all powerful but just chooses not to act? How does inaction represent God's all encompassing love? If God doesn’t act, is God all powerful? If God is always present does that mean that God too is suffering along with us? If God is suffering with us does God truly feel my pain?
I think these are questions we have to wrestle with to truly understand who God is in our lives. Answers to these questions may be different for each one of us but I know I choose to believe in a God that loves me and suffers with me. God is love and love is powerful above all else.
As unfortunate as my father's death was for my family, I reflect back and see how it bonded us together with love. The love united us together as a family unit. That love between us and the love of our community (church, neighbors, friends) carried us into coping with and understanding the death. Although my siblings and I all came to terms with the loss in our own manner and time, it was through the suffering that we eventually saw God right there along with us, loving us each step of the way.
It's hard to find God and feel hope in those moments of suffering, when terrible things happen in our lives. But hope lives in both the best and darkest of days. A hope that calmly shouts, I am here with you! God has positioned you to be a vehicle for that hope, a comforting presence for others. How you respond can be vital to the healing process of others and the spiritual journey they are on. Love is powerful!
Find time this week to share your story of a difficult time in your life. This could be with a friend, neighbor, or loved one. I encourage you to write on our blog if this story impacted you.
Many years ago I was asked to lead a class about relationships at a Jr. High Camp. Now I am probably the least qualified to give advice about relationships and can only imagine my reaction was much like this GIF. Each day focused on a different relationship e.g. friends, self, significant other, etc. One of the days was strictly focused on our relationship with God.
I prompted the twenty kids to write down questions they have about God. One question in particular received a lot of discussion, do we have a purpose? One girl shared about her brother who died at age 2 from a hole in his heart. You could hear the anger in her voice and see how she disliked talking about the experience because she could not find a purpose in her brother's death. The group was amazing in listening and supporting her. We also dialogued the role God has in our loss. At the end we prayed for the girl and her brother. Tears rolled down her eyes as the friends near her held tight to her hurting soul. It was a moving experience for our class and one that took us deeper as a group.
Everyone is different so please do not assume I am saying everyone needs to cry to move on from such an experience. However I do want to acknowledge that crying along with many other things allows the hurt to be experienced instead of suppressing it. Dealing with loss is a process. I would encourage you to look up Kubler-Ross' 5 stages of grief which acknowledges various experiences people go through when working through the emotions from a loss. The stages presented are not sequential but are experienced in our own time.
Power In Our Words
When we share the most vulnerable experiences of our lives with others something miraculous happens. We allow the love of others to slowly seep in and heal our hearts. Each time our story is told we gain a little bit more power over the experience. It still hurts however our story starts to become something that brings hope for others. Our perspective changes to focus on how we are walking through it.
Loss of Faith
Losing your faith is also a grief process. Some of you may have experienced this or may be going through it right now. It can be painful, lonely, and confusing. You may feel angry, terrified, bitter, or empty. It's ok to feel this way as something so personal should bring out an array of emotions. During the process, there can be tendency to devalue previous spiritual experiences. I encourage you to find ways to bring further understanding and perspective to them. Those experiences are part of your life and your story. And though they may not mean the same to you as they once did, they are still of worth. Take time, listen to your heart, work through your thoughts, and talk to those willing to listen.
The Rest of the Story
Later that day, I was journaling outside on a picnic table, when the girl and one of her friends came to sit by me. The girl randomly asked to sign my journal. After they left, I looked back at what she had signed. It stated "Thanks for today! I have actually never cried about my brother." It was in those few written words that she confirmed my assumption that she had been holding on to the hurt and pain from the loss of her brother for over five years. This experience I hope started her on a healing journey in understanding the loss and moving forward with her life.
Do you have a hole in your heart? Has your faith been shaken? Are you still working through loss? Press on to find your healing. Share your stories with others. Allow God to work through your experiences. I want to leave you with this scripture.
Doctrine and Covenants 162
10a Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened.
10b Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace.
Please share this blog post on your social media account if you have experienced loss or comment below if this post has been helpful for you.
Welcoming others is crucial to building community. One way we can be inclusive is allowing people to have a place at the table. Inclusion, giving a voice, allowing all to be an equal part. If you have been rejected and cast out, know somewhere there is a table waiting for you. A table surrounded by others wanting to hear your voice and include you in their community.
What Does It Mean For You?
Have you ever felt like your voice didn't matter? Have you been able to speak your opinion but felt like the decisions were already made? I think when we truly have a place at the table dialogue happens. Stories are shared and people are understood and valued. There is no contention to change the other person, we accept them for who they are. For me, sitting at the table is a beautiful expression of setting aside our personal agendas to be with someone. Mutually deeming each other a person of worth despite any other categorical divisions that have been created. In the educational system I work in, it means valuing the voice each student has and sometimes helping them find their voice which has been lost. But what does it mean for you in the context of your life?
Where Is Your table?
You may not know where your table is but I hope you find it in your own time. The search is what's vital. It’s important we all find people that will further our spiritual journeys. People we can call our community. Identifying this community is no easy task. Ask yourself are they willing to listen to me? Are they willing to spend time getting to know me? Are they willing to love me for who I am? I know this community wants you to be yourself, your raw self. You will find your table, I know it. A table where you are welcomed and included. A place where your voice is heard and valued.
For Everyone Born
I want to leave you with a youtube clip of a song from the Lewis River Reunion. The song is called “For Everyone Born” written by Shirley Erena Murray.
I encourage you to read the lyrics at http://www.cofchrist.org/for-everyone-born which also gives Ms. Murray’s description about how she came to write the song.
Invite someone to your table this week! Eat with them, listen to them, and be present with them. I would love for you to share on our blog with a comment about how it went.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.