Recently I gathered all the pieces of art I own that are most important to me. It was a random collection including everything from a ceramic arrow to a portrait of 2Pac. I thought it was the most random assortment of art and there was no way it was going to come together to create a beautiful gallery wall. Yet somehow, thanks to the brilliance of my magical friend Erin, it is perfect. This is exactly how my faith has formed over my lifetime. A collection of unique experiences and learning that have come together perfectly.
I grew up with the routine of a Lutheran worship service. We rarely missed a Sunday; my family was very involved with our church community. I knew (and still know) every call and response, hymn, and interlude in the LBW. I went to bible camp in the summer and eventually became a counselor at that camp. That camp is where I found my first job out of college as a Children’s Minister, and that was also the time in my life when I studied at the Seminary. That is a favorite fact of many people that know me, as I am not your “typical” seminarian.
There was a comfort in knowing the routine of church, the safety in it. And as I began to study the scripture and history of my religion, I began to feel extremely disconnected from the entire idea of religion. I stopped going to church and began to explore all different types of worship. I read everything I could get my hands on, tried on different practices, even wrote off faith all together at one point. As a result, over the last 20 years of my life, I have formed my own belief system and faith practices. None of which involved going to “church”.
Then I hit a place in my life a few months ago, when all I could think to do was go to church. And what I have experienced is a community that gives me space to frame my experience of God in my own way and come back to a new understanding of my faith.
Faith for me is not a passive act. Faith is the belief that I am on the right path and as a result, I take committed ACTION toward that future.
How do I know I am on the right path? Well, that comes from listening. I have completely redefined what I know as the practice of prayer over the past 10 years as well. My understanding of prayer growing up was reciting some memorized lines and then asking God for things. What it has evolved into for me is more of an exchange. I believe that my gifts and inspired action come from god (my definition, which is why I didn’t put the big G there). If I continually take that inspiration and those gifts without giving thanks, I can head down an incorrect path, or even more the well can run dry. Prayer for me is giving thanks and then asking for guidance, inspiration, and blessing.
The kind of faith this has created for me gives so much space for listening to other’s experience of who god is in their life. It has created connection rather than judgement. And it has given me the reminder of grace within a community of faith.
My experience of church over the last few months is refreshing. It allows me to see a new way of having an active faith practice within a community and yet it is unique to me. What a gift to experience true connection with a group of people, being able to bring my full self, questions and all. To each share our experience and not have to have it all look the same.
So yes, I pray to god. And I am grateful for a community to explore that relationship. And I use crystals, and oils, and energy work, and I practice yoga. And if I find myself in a church in southern Minnesota I will still know every word in the LBW, and I will eat ALL the jello salad. And if I find myself at my yoga studio I will learn from the Bhagavad Gita and eat a vegan meal.
Because I’ve got to have faith, faith, faith.