Lots of times, in Christianity, we use words or phrases that sound beautiful and poetic and heartwarming, but are actually pretty intangible. I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to wrap my head around the literal meanings of “a personal walk with Jesus”, or, being “brothers and sisters Christ”. Another one I frequently hear from my Protestant friends is, “accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior” (the end result of which is, of course, guaranteed salvation). There are others, but at the moment I’m having trouble remembering what they are.
Maybe these kinds of phrases aren’t meant to be taken literally? Perhaps they’re just metaphors, or some kind of figurative speech. Either way, I dont know what they REALLY mean.
How do we “walk with Jesus” when He is already in heaven? How are we brothers and sisters IN Christ? Are we not brothers and sisters because we are all children of God? Has this not always been so? This last bit about accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior– well, He is Lord and Savior whether or not you accept it, so what does your “acceptance” have to do with anything? It’s truth whether you believe it or not!
I strongly suspect that I am not the only person in the world who is clueless about these types of phrases.
Not understanding what these phrases really mean tends to leave a person with a feeling of “left-outedness” in certain communities, and amongst certain circles of friends. I find myself thinking, “do they all REALLY walk with Jesus every single day? What does that mean they are doing that I am clearly not doing? And this personal relationship every body keeps talking about– do they HEAR answers to their prayers? Is Jesus telling them something He’s not telling me?”
I especially wonder about the phrase “personal relationship with Christ Jesus”. To me, relationships are about give and take, back and forth, exchanges of love, conversation, ideas, friendship, etc. What on earth could I possibly have to offer Jesus?! How is my “relationship” with Him any different from that of any other penitent sinner?
Quite frankly, in my own religious life, I haven’t really given Jesus much thought. I guess you could say I tend to take Him for granted as simply factual. I typically direct prayers to God the Father, speak of religion in terms of God the Father, and consider judgement by God the Father. When we teach Little Scribbler to pray, it is to God that we do so.
Jesus has given us the example of how to live, and the study of His life is, of course, extremely important. But I guess for me it has always ended there– studying His life, appreciating His sacrifice and thanking Him for it, and using Him as a role model for my own life. I haven’t got any idea how to formulate a deeper relationship with Him– because, again, I feel like I have very little to contribute to the relationship.
They say “faith is a journey”, and this is one phrase I can really relate to and understand tangibly. My own faith has changed significantly over the course of the last decade or so. There have been times (not recently) when I’ve almost lost it entirely. These faithless times coincided with periods of extreme sin and duress on my part (go figure!). I’m not sure how it is that I regained myself, except that I think I could always hear God calling me back, although at times I blocked out the sound of God’s voice and interjected my own.
Having arrived at a faithful place, whereby I am convinced God is constant, unceasing, and the only personwe can truly count on, I began building up from that basic foundation. What did I believe? Where should I begin? The Auditor was part of the building process, and we visited MANY churches, even flirting with Protestantism, in an effort to really examine what we believed. It was through those experiences that we came to realize there was only one place we could ever truly call home– the Catholic Church.
But knowing Catholicism is Truth, and the Church is Home, wassn’t good enough. Although we were raised as Catholics (sort of- my inlaws were several differne religions during A’s childhood), both the Auditor and I were VERY poorly catechized. (Thanks 1980’s CCD classes! You did a great job! NOT.) There we found ourselves, confirmed adults who knew next to nothing about the foundations of our Church.
Many times, when people speak, they used the terms “faith” and “religion” interchangably. I think this is a mistake– you can absolutely have faith, but very little knowledge about your religion. Faith is only a part of religion. I think that’s where I’ve spent much of the last few years– unceasing faith, with very little religious knowledge. Faith brings us to the God who was calling us all along. He gave me faith enough to listen to His call, and then courage to answer it. Faith is a great jumping-off point, but it doesn’t bring us everything. What faith does NOT bring, are the details. And the details make all the difference in the world!
Without the details (meaning doctrines, dogmas, scripture, fellowship, etc), I could not lead a life that was pleasing to God, because although I have Faith in Him, I would not know what He has asked of me, nor what He has promised those who are faithful! Frankly, the more details I gather, the more certain I am that I’m not pleasing Him yet, lol.
But that’s a good thing! It is helping me to reform my life, and to plan how to raise my children to know Him and love Him and serve Him! If you find yourself, as I did, an uninformed adult, where do you turn to acquire the details?! How do you embark on the next leg of the journey? How can you find your way?
Follow the light. Crucial to finding my way on this journey of faith, have been those beacons lighting the way ahead of me– those people who, in Christian love and fellowship, share their knowledge and their love of God, and help draw others closer. It is through each other that we find our way– we light the path for others to follow, sometimes unwittingly! The lights along my path have touched my heart, possibly without even knowing it!
Mary, my confirmation sponsor, an unceasingly faithful woman, who talked me through my first fleeting moments of uncertainty about the reality of God, way back at age 15. I’ve known her since I was in diapers, and I could not appreciate more the time she took to ensure my basic faith foundation was a solid one! One of the very first lamps on the path!
The Auditor himself, who has traveled much of this journey with me, questioning, probing, arguing, researching. Our religious paths began as far diverged as the east is from the west, and yet, at some point, merged into a wide and comfortable road, which we travel together, hand in hand.
My best friend, Rainbow, a former-Mormon turned Evangelical Protestant, with whom I discuss, question, evaluate. Her unceasing desire to obey the Lord in all things, but particularly in her marriage, has been an inspiration to me. (My unceasing efforts to convert her to Catholicism have no doubt been an extreme annoyance she has gracefully endured in silence, thus far. Someday, Rainbow! You’ll see!)
The man who calls himself the Teacher to my Grasshopper (recently turned ‘Praying’ Mantis!), who stumbled upon me at a New Testament class, and has made such an effort to share both fellowship and the Holy Scripture! Familiarity with the Bible is an area in which I am particularly lacking. His offer to share study of the Word with the Auditor and I was more generous that I think even he realizes. He has done us several great kindnesses, which have not gone unnoticed, nor unappreciated!
My beloved Pat, the walking Catholic Encyclopedia, defender of the faith, unceasing encourager of this wandering soul! A kinder man could not be found– and find me he did, on my very first day as a posting member of the Catholic Answer Forums. I posted that I needed to learn about my own religion, was feeling pretty silly for knowing next to nothing about a faith in which I was raised, and only a few short hours later had an email from this wonderful man, offering his knowledge and assistance! Since April 2009, Pat has guided me through many murky waters and mis-steps. I believe God planted this great friend in my path purposefully!
Sister X–whom I met through my parish. She is a member of a religious order, and is admittedly extremely liberal (Pro-female priests, for exmple). This “progressive” (imply what you will from the quotations!) woman is also an extremely kind and prayerful soul. Conversations with Sister X require me to really, thoroughly, examine my positions and beliefs, in order to better defend them, and to arrive at positions I am CERTAIN are pleasing to God. I doubt she is even aware of how helpful she has been to me! (I strongly suspect that she is trying to “liberate” me from my conservatism, one conversation at a time :))
Faith is a journey– at times you find lamps who light the way, even in the unlikliest of places! I don’t really know what it means to “walk with Jesus” on this journey. I see a string of lamps, lighting the way through the darkness, and at the end of the trail burns the brightest lamp of all. I always thought THAT was Jesus, waiting for me at the top of the mountain. Maybe it’s not. Perhaps, God is the one waiting for me at the end of my long faith journey. Perhaps Jesus walks beside me, a seasoned guide who already knows the way.
I wonder if there is anyone for whom I am such a lamp. I hope agasint hope that someday LS will look back and see me as a lamp lighting her way towards the Lord. After pleasing God, it is my greatest desire to lead LS to Him! On this Mother’s Day, I think that is one of the most important mothering goals I have ever set– Be The Lamp That Lights Little Scribbler’s Path To God.
Who’s path are YOU lighting?! Never thought about it? Start thinking about it!
I will close with some cheesy song lyrics to live by! There is a bonus prize if you can name that group (which I realize should be pretty easy, what with the invention of Google and all).
“Love who you love, and say that you do!”
(Love is a verb! Not a feeling! ~Faithful Scribbler)