Have probably said this elsewhere, but I do think that the development of faith in one’s life is linear and not a fixed experience. I wasn’t brought up in a Christian family, although my parents had early church connections and I have since found out that I have a couple of Methodist minister ancestors! As a child I occasionally went to Sunday School but this petered out, then it was Brownies and a ballet class held in the church hall. So was the sum total of involvement for me until I attended a church youth group for a while in my teens, having been invited by a school friend. With hindsight I know her family were praying for me, I always enjoyed visiting their home and her mother became a sort of spiritual mum to me, and also a dear friend as I grew up. I always acknowledged God as existing and liked to envisage the prospect of an afterlife, but I had no concept of faith in Christ, nor of a redeeming relationship with Him.
At University it all fell into place, I realised my need of Jesus and suddenly the whole point of life became clear, the Westminster catechism puts it well: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever’ Of course faith is a gift and it’s attainment is different for everyone. My own coming to faith wasn’t dramatic, but was very definite. At Uni I had made friends with several Christians (no coincidence!) and they encouraged me hugely as we began journeying together. Prayer (or conversation with God) became a natural part of life and the bedrock of all my experiences. So my roots were Evangelical, with a gentle charismatic aspect as I began to believe in and experience supernatural aspects to my faith.
Then a couple of years after Uni I definitely went on a detour! New relationships began to dominate, I had my head turned on several occasions and subsequently fell away from a daily Christian walk, although not from faith in God. I still asked Jesus to answer my rather self-centred prayers for unsuitable boyfriends!! but I wasn’t prepared to really listen to Him nor to examine whether these relationships were truly worth it. There are many memories of that time I cringe at, but in all honesty, some good ones too and a couple of these people remain on my Christmas card list.
The turn around came when I began a new job with a Christian organisation, made new friends and met my husband. Normal service was resumed somewhat, but of course God had never abandoned me, He’d simply been waiting for me to go the prodigal route. Around that time I also received two ‘words’ from God delivered during times of prayer and ministry, and transcribed by my flatmate at the time.The following years have also been something of a searching time. We joined what seemed to be an exciting and ‘different’ church which actually proved to be very elitist and fundamentalist, however at the beginning it yielded friendships and lots of involvement, so the less healthy (cultish) side was obscured until, after two occasions when the church split, with accompanying conflict and departures, we called it a day. I have never regretted this, I didn’t realise just how ridiculous and unhelpful to others my beliefs had become, and their insidious influence has still had to be resisted occasionally but I think now has all but gone.
Perhaps as a reaction I spent a few years with an awakening interest in a more contemplative faith, going on a silent retreat to Holy Island, joining a Julian group, following set daily prayers and visiting a couple of convents. I resisted Evangelicalism and totally turned my back on the charismatic movement for a time. Slowly but surely the journey has been progressing onward and after a more recent transitory experience elsewhere, we have joined a lovely church where we feel at home and I am so open to God using me in the things He wants to do for others. This church is evangelical Anglican with some gentle charismatic features apparent amongst certain people (including myself!). So I’m back to square one but with greater conviction! not exactly liberal but more tolerant as I reflect on how radical Jesus was in His love for people (and still is). Recently I found those prophetic ‘words’ again (from 1989) and was amazed at how accurate they actually are with the passing of 20+ years.
So congrats if you have stayed with me and waded through all that, I suppose I just want to say that faith is something very fluid, the most important aspect (for me) is who our faith is in, but the journey lasts a life time and can take us on many an interesting route. Somehow I think my path is now more settled and I expect to continue along it in the days to come. Watch this space! 🙂