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Recounting the Journey

11 March, 2004 8:56 AM

One of the subjects that I'm studying this semester is a Spirituality subject called 'Experiencing God'. In it we have to keep a journal of our reflections upon our own experiences of God under particular headings. I will post some of them here.

The first theme was to think about our journey of faith - the beginnings, the changes, the lessons. Following is what I wrote yesterday as I considered such themes - it might be of interest to those who have asked me over the years how I came to faith. Keep in mind its only a very quick snap shot, written with a deadline. Enjoy.

The beginnings of my �journey� can probably be traced back many generations before my birth in that I was born into a family in which the ideas of faith, mission and ministry run deeply. Whilst I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be born into a �normal� family I�ve always been grateful for the experiences of God I grew up with. From my earliest memories I�ve always had a sense of God being present in my life in some shape or form. Early on it was largely through the telling of stories, singing songs and praying of simple prayers both with family and at church in Sunday School that I came to understand that I could be in relationship with God. God as a �friend� was an important concept for me as a child.

Being the Preachers kid meant being immersed in the life of our community of faith. This was an experience that shaped me in many ways, both positively and negatively. The idea of spirituality as a shared, corporate experience was something that I inherited from this context. I�m also grateful for exposure to the ideas of prayer, Scripture and mission from this time.

On the flip side I now recognise that I grew up in something like a �Christian Ghetto� � or �Holy Huddle�. Whilst the safety and comfort of my community was a great place to explore the idea of who God was it perhaps ignored questions of our place in the world (except for the idea of us being missionaries with the role of �saving� others).

For this reason when I got to the age of 18 and began attending university I did not really have the skills needed to make sense of my faith in the �real world�. My experience of God and faith was largely tied up in knowledge (knowing the �theories� of God, knowing about Scripture, knowing how to pray, saying the right things) and piety (living within an inherited set of moral guidelines).

Such knowledge, piety and separateness from �the world� did not stand up to the reality of what I found myself living in � I did not have the skills or framework to make sense of it all (I remember thinking that faith �didn�t work�) and so began a process of rejecting God, the Church and many of the aspects of faith that I was brought up with � in these things place I began to explore and experiment with �the world� � in my framework there was not room enough for both experiencing God and experiencing what I saw as the secular.

The next few years of my life were difficult in many ways yet as I look back on the pain I experienced in forming identity I am also appreciative of the lessons learnt and experiences gained that have shaped me into the person that I am today.

The short version of the story is that in all my exploring and experimenting I could not make sense of the world without God as I had previously understood him either. Things still didn�t �work�. In fact I found myself in a very dark place where meaning, purpose and a sense of life seemed very distant from me. It was at this point that I had something of a �conversion� experience over a period of a number of months and years. There was not a Damascus Road experience or particular moment which I can identify � rather a collection of relationships and experiences that helped me to come to a new understanding and experience of God.

I find it difficult to articulate much of this �conversion� experience but in reflecting upon it a number of themes come to mind.

Relationship � Whilst I had always understood that God desired to have a relationship with me (and I had described my spirituality in these terms since being a child) I had never really experienced it. In this period of my life I was challenged by a number of people to grow in my understanding of this relationship with God. I began to explore who the Holy Spirit is, had fresh revelations of prayer as a �two way� street etc. For the first time in my life faith began to extend beyond what I knew and how I behaved into who I was, what I felt and how I related.

Healing � In conjunction with this I began to come to experience God as a healer on personal level. This healing was not anything physical (although I did find freedom from addiction which was somewhat physical) but more importantly in an emotional and relational sense.

God in the Everyday � The lines between the Sacred and Secular slowly began to blur and I discovered God in some unexpected places. It was incredibly exciting to see God at work in the world around me and not to limit his work to Church related activities. God related to, expressed himself and was relevant in culture.

Mission � This discovery of God in the everyday was something that began a new understanding of Mission for me. In recent years this has been perhaps the biggest paradigm shift for me and too big to explain here except to say that I felt a growing call to take seriously the call of Jesus to mission and an understanding of God as a missionary. It was an incredible release of guilt to realise that it was not my responsibility to take God into the world and save it � but that God is already involved in this life giving experience � my role is to discern what he�s doing and to find a way in joining him.

In the midst of these ongoing discoveries and experiences of God I�ve felt �calls� to a variety of ways of joining him in what he�s doing around me. These have included both formal �pastoral positions� in churches and missions organizations but also taking up a variety of �normal� everyday opportunities.

The journey has by no means reached an end destination. The discoveries continue on a daily basis.

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