(This is new post to of a series on Do-Your-Own-Theology. Though it is about a specific situation and person, it occurred to me that more people might need to hear it, so here it is…)
I had a conversation with a young person who is very important to me this morning. We talked about faith and the conversation started by me asking “What do you believe?”. It occurred to me shortly after that that it was the wrong question.
The question that actually started conversation was “what do you experience about God?”. The person said that they experienced God at camp (not a great surprise to me) and — when they did — they felt happy, peaceful, and like they could do anything.
They went on to say that they weren’t sure if they had “the faith” because they had problems with the Bible vs. Science and they believed gay people were good.
I said “So you believe or experience Something (they had said “Something with a capital S” earlier)
but you DON’T believe some things?” and they agreed.
This led into a discussion of the history of the church and church conflict. Jacob and Esau believed some things about God and didn’t believe others. They were both faithful.
Later, Jesus and the Jews agreed about some things and not others. They were both faithful. The Pope and Martin Luther agreed on some things and not others. Henry the VIII and the Pope disagreed. Baptists and Quakers and Pilgrims all agreed and disagreed. All had faith, but with the things they considered important enough to stand for as too important to care whether others agreed.
For the person then. I explained that their faith said that Church is a place where people — when God is present– are happy, peaceful (calm?), and they feel like they can do anything.
The person luckily belongs to a church where most believe in science and the rights of gay people. In any case, the church is a place where people have like opinions and different opinions but they also respect each other and believe they can each figure out what God means and how to live.
What I didn’t say but thought later was that the young person is on a faith journey. Faith is like a journey on a road without mile-markers. You’re already on it, but you don’t know how far you are or aren’t. Sometimes it feels like you make quantum leaps and know where you are. Sometimes it feels like it’s a crawl and you are lost. But if you are conflicted, it’s ok. That, oddly, is what means you’re faithful.
If you think you have to already know and be certain what you believe to have start your faith journey, you’re going to be waiting a long time. If you’re conflicted about it, you’re conflicted about Something. That Something might be God.