The Rev. Janice Ford
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
Recently, I had a conversation with a wonderful 27 year old man (who I will refer to as Sean) who shared with me the circumstances of his early life. He explained that he had been born to a very young couple (mother was 17, father was 18), both of whom were drug addicts. At the age of seven, Sean and his identical twin brother were taken from his parents and adopted by his maternal grandparents. He related feeling very loved and cared for by his grandmother, and credits his “good morals” to her. However, he also related that he felt he had “missed out” on something because his grandmother did not bring him up to know God in a formal or religious way. Though he said he was pretty certain his grandmother believed in God, she never spoke about faith to him or his brother. Now, Sean found himself searching for something he could not name, yet knowing that he must pursue it. In his own words, “My life is good, and I am happy, but I want to know God. I know doing so will make my life even better.”
Clearly, hearing those words from someone like Sean is every clergy person’s dream! Here is someone who is simply aching to know God in a more personal way. Sean is a believer, though he’s not exactly sure what it is he believes in. The opportunity to help Sean know God more fully is an incredible gift.
Sean’s story is not unlike those of thousands of people. Regardless of whether someone has been un-churched, mal-churched, or mis-churched, the end result is the same—a burning desire to know God in a way that will transform his or her life, making it possible to live life to its fullest potential. The guidance Sean and others like him need and want is the role of the Church—every Christian denomination—dare I say, every religion.
The difficulty here is that helping people to discover God in their lives requires a good portion of risk, sacrifice, and even discomfort, and it cannot be solely the work of ordained clergy. Though clergy can provide instruction and spiritual direction, hearing how God has transformed the lives of other lay people is incredibly valuable and necessary to aid someone who is searching. Spiritual formation is the responsibility of every believer. It takes time and involvement, however, which many feel they cannot offer. Still others reason that the spiritual life of others is “none of their business.” The truth is that God not only approves of us helping one another in this way, God expects it!
In the same way that most of us feel a responsibility to feed the poor, we must also extend that feeling of responsibility to feed those who may be living in spiritual poverty. Sharing the spiritual experiences of our lives, modeling good behavior, and extending invitations to others to worship are the best ways to meet that responsibility.
I am excited beyond words to walk with Sean as he meets God in new and wonderful ways, but I will not be doing it alone. I am reaching out to others to walk with us as well. To do less is to ignore the mandate that God has given to us, even as we cherish the incredible gift of faith.
- Wednesday, 07 March 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion