Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Where are you? More importantly.. where am I?

So what stage or degree of faith should you or I have? Should we seek the "highest" stage? Should we all hope to reach the point of a totally sacrificial faith? No doubt, we all tend to see that as an ideal. But dare anyone tell you where you should be at a given stage of your faith journey? To insist that you reach complete maturity now is like grabbing a budding flower by the stem and trying to yank it upward into full bloom. Such an effort would be violent and destructive. And it ignores the truth that there is a season for everything.

I've been reading some of my home work tonight as we relax and get ready for bed for an upcoming class in Ministry Formation. The article, How God Invites us to Grow, talks about 6 different stages of faith. I'll attempt to paraphrase those below here.

Stage 1: Imaginative Faith

This is where faith starts, as a young child we often have fancy notions of God being the old grandfather up in the cloud. Flying around the world like Santa Clause. Showering down gifts from on high, bowling in the clouds to make thunder, etc.

Stage 2: Literal Faith

This is where many of us get to and get stuck, or even consider to be all there is to faith. It's where we take all the stories as literal history stories and we never get to the moral foundation of them.. the story of love behind them. It is where we stick to what we know, literal stories, and almost avoid any other truth that can come from them. We see the story of Adam and Eve not as a story that teaches us moral value, but of a God who punishes evil and good, who doles out good and evil, almost a karmic God.

Stage 3: Group faith

This is where we do what we do, not because of any reason other than that's how we've always done it. My grandfather used to grab our heads and push them down during prayer, because that's how we prayed. To this day, I still bow my head during prayer... because that's how we did it. Many of those who start in one faith and live it their entire life, often never find out why they do something.. they just continue to do it. I remember a story about an a family where the daughter always cut the end off the ham... she had no idea why, so one day at Christmas she called home and said Mom why do you cut the end off the ham? Expecting an answer that it kept it moister, or did something with juices, her mother said I dunno, mom always did. So they get together and go see the grandmother.. who opens the oven and says, cause I have a little oven and if I don't cut the end off it won't fit in there.

Stage 4: Personal faith

Responsibility. At this stage we look up what we do.. we find out why.. we live our faith not because someone else told us too but because we understand why we bow, why we kneel, why we genuflect.. not only understand, but agree and do it out of our own choice.. our own faith. Owning your faith. Not being Catholic because your family was and you just always have been.. but realizing what being Catholic is.. and living it because it's right.

Stage 5: Mystical faith

Lots of people give this one a bad name. Mystical faith just means you've gone into communion with God. You're beyond just realizing that God lives in you.. but KNOWING he does. It's having an intimate relationship where you not only realize that, but that he lives in others. You then being to see them as brothers and sisters, regardless of faith, regardless of if they agree with you. It's going above just self and God.. and being beyond yourself.. which of course leads to

Stage 6: Sacrificial faith.

We know this is the ideal.. the faith where we give ourselves away. Where we no longer are concerned with status, personal gain, or even our own safety.. all we are worried about is doing the will of God. He has become our all in all, and as such serving his family has become greater than ourselves. Giving up our selves to serve Him and by it everyone else. As the Article says “One's commitment to the values of truth, justice, and love become all consuming.”

I spent about an hour talking with my wife after reading this article. We were discussing.. where are we? I know where I want to be.. I want to be there at that Sacrificial level... but I don't know that I am. I'd like to say that I'm on some levels getting towards a mystical faith.... some of the lines really spoke to me. “For most people this awareness of God's inner presence begins with a longing or a compelling desire to be one's whole self or to live one's life as meaningfully as possible.” That resonates with me on so many levels. As does the statement: "Recognition of the sisterhood and brotherhood of all people also intensifies one's commitment to the well-being of all humankind.” Am I there? I am not sure. Is my ego wanting me to be more than I am? Possibly.

I do know I am beyond group faith. I no longer follow any faith, without understanding why. I do not tell my kids you will do this because that's what we do! We do this because of this reason, this is what it means, and here is where we can find that information. They also will choose for themselves, to be Catholic or not when the time comes. For now I will teach them as much as I can about our faith.. not just what we do, but why we do it, and where those traditions come from.

So here I am. Discerning. Woefully inadequate, praying that God will lead me on down this path and turn me into the man he wants me to be, and not the man that I am. Hoping to be on the highest level, feeling I'm really on the lowest rung. With that I will leave you with the words quoted in the article of Thomas Merton, “When I have found my truest self, I will have found God.”

Lord help me to find my truest self, to become the self that you created me to be, that I may be in full and perfect communion with you.. praying at all times, walking in Your will and not my own.

In Christ,