Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Vicar's Sofa - Faith, Why bother?

In my last post of this series on Faith for the Fainthearted I suggested that there are many, many things we might prefer to do than drag ourselves out of a warm bed on a cold Sunday and down to our local church or any other place of worship. As I write this I am sitting on a desktop PC at the back of my own cold church at just gone nine in the morning, giving myself a stern telling off for forgetting to bring an oversized cardigan with me to keep warm. And it is only October. Trust me, I know all about the loss of the Sunday lie in!

And of course it isn’t just the Sunday morning thing. What is the point of faith, of religion, of spirituality, of any of it when there are so many other ways to make your life rich and fulfilling. We live in a time where the opportunities really are endless. There are countless ways to be entertained, innumerable ways to bring joy to life and, if we are lucky, a wide range of family and friends to share it all with. The only thing we are perhaps poor on is time. So why, then, bother with one more thing?
Way before I considered myself a person of faith I had a conversation with a Christian friend where I asked her, with a heavy dose of scepticism, why she was a Christian. She responded with something that fascinated me, she said 'It makes life better.' This, I felt, was quite a bold claim, to say this so clearly and without qualification. It wasn't about a guilt trip or worrying about where you go when you die, it was about the here and now. This, I thought, was rather interesting.
A Christian writer, Richard Rohr, describes the life of faith like this
'Get ready for a great adventure, the one you were really born for. If we never get to our little bit of heaven, our life does not make much sense, and we have created our own 'hell'. So get ready for some new freedom, some dangerous permission, some hope from nowhere, some unexpected happiness, some stumbling stones, some radical grace, and some new and pressing responsibility for yourself and our suffering world.'
What strikes me here, and something that resonates with my own experience, is the sense of how a life that includes faith and spirituality is an adventure. It takes you in directions you could never have possibly imagined , it uncovers things that live deep down in you that you never thought were even there. Another writer that I love, Margaret Silf, describes our true self as like a deep river running in the core of us. The task of the life of faith is to get down into the deep river, that core of who we are, of who God intended and longs for us to be.

And that is liberating, it is worth it and it is, well, fun! It means your path in life is never sewn up. Your direction is never fixed. Your potential is never fully tapped. There is always more and more that right now you can’t even begin to predict. There have been so many incidents as I have walked this journey of faith where I have been making choices in my life on the basis of what I thought God was calling me to with a very real scepticism in my own heart. Ordination itself was one of those things. I once swore, after a bad experience working in a church, that I would never work for a church again. And yet there I was, with this gut pull towards a whole life working in the church.
No matter how many people told me that what I was doing seemed the right thing to them and no matter how many interviews I got through or criteria I ticked off I still found the whole thing extraordinary. I still do. I still marvel at the fact that I am here, in a place I would never, ever have put myself and that gut pull, that path of faith I have followed is being proved a safe and true one. I am becoming things I never thought I could be.
So why bother? Well, I suppose it depends what kind of life you are looking for. There really is plenty to do, your life can be meaningful and good without any of this. But if you have that yearning to go deeper, to discover something extraordinary in yourself and in the world. Well, then maybe this is the path for you. Maybe there is more, no matter what stage of life you are at. There is only one way to find out. Maybe it is time for a new adventure.



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