I am well aware of the truckloads of material already on the net about personal spirituality. I have not wanted to add unnecessarily to the pile that is self indulgent and remains largely unread and of little significance to anyone but the author.
Spirituality is crucial to my life though. It is my essence, my inner reference framework; the place to which I withdraw. It is the very air I breathe. I am unable to ignore it.
The secular culture which surrounds me tries to deny this reality. In a host of ways it tries to convince me to accept there is no dimension to my existence beyond what I can see, taste, touch, hear and smell. My secular friends dismiss my belief, my faith, as unsophisticated; something I should have grown out of, as they have done. They are impatient at what they call non-scientific superstition; untested childish beliefs.
As a little child then, I raise my hand to ask humbly for a hearing.
It is time for a further instalment in my personal faith story. It is likely (God willing) it will not be the last.
You see, I can’t help spending time observing everyday culture, and the lives of my secular friends for that matter. I don’t always see a lot that inspires me. It seems to me that it is one thing to argue intellectually for a particular world view. It is quite another to live with it and its consequences. A secular world view has many good points and benefits for people who want to live together in safety, good order and harmony. It addresses our wants and many of our basic life needs. But it leaves us alone in the midst of busyness; helpless in the face of tragedy; and incapable of appreciating the full complexity and significance of our existence. It distances us from our souls. Embracing the secular as the signpost and the determinant of reality stunts our personhood and blinds us to life in all its richness. At least, that is the view of this naive little child.
Our culture intimidates us and pressures us to embrace secularism as an enlightened form of belief. If that were to be so, then I raise my hand humbly and with trepidation to suggest that the fruits of secularism should reflect that promise. Do they? I would suggest that even for someone determined to ignore inconvenient facts, it would take quite an effort to overlook the brokenness and destruction in and throughout our secular society. To answer that impertinent little question, however, would be a book in itself and I don’t have the time this morning. I will content myself with a contrasting brief account of the fruits of my own Christian faith.
My faith is and always has been life-giving and life-affirming for me. It has nurtured me. Never ever have I felt played for a fool by it. It has not always supplied what I thought were my immediate needs and often it has perplexed me. It has never, however, let me down or led me into a blind alley. Thinking back over things this morning I was reminded about the Bible story of the tree that bears good fruit. One shouldn’t expect a bad tree to produce good fruit. Further, one can tell the worth of a tree by the fruit it produces, especially over time.
My faith has taught me that self centredness is as useless and destructive as self righteousness. It has shown me that as long as I cling to a belief that I am the centre of the world I will never know my proper place in it. It has assured and reassured me time and again that I matter to God, my creator. The fruit of that in my life has been humility and inner peace where arrogance and pride have wanted to poke their noses in. Love has found me when I sought power instead. Forgiveness and reconcilliation bathed me and repaired my soul. Good, sweet, and sustaining fruit. If you knew me well, you would also, I hope, see the some of the fruits of Christian faith in my life poking through the unsightly bits.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
Please understand that I am well aware of my unsavoury side. I share that side in common with my secular friends. It’s just that I don’t pretend it isn’t there, or that it is a result of my upbringing or one of a countless number of other excuses used to hide from God.
I am in no way a role model. I have my warts and blemishes. The fruit of faith has flourished in me even if the material with which it has had to work has been of uneven quality. I share the common shortcomings of my secular friends and acquaintances. Through faith though, I see and experience a wholeness they do not even dream of.
I rest my life unreservedly on my faith in Jesus. The fruit it has produced in me serves only to confirm that faith . . . . Childish superstitution? Unsophisticated? Perhaps you see, as I do, that such observations miss the point entirely.