My final contribution to a correspondence about life paths and unfolding journeys of faith
Sam, thank you for this. You have explored so many aspects of not only your faith, but your life’s journey thus far, as well.
There is so much here to assimilate and think about, but I have selected a few passages to comment on. I look forward to any responses you have to what I have posted here.
Sam : In my last letter, I left off with the concept of dying to sin and being born again after accepting deliverance and forgiveness through Jesus. The Bible describes this both as putting to death and putting off the old nature and becoming a new person. A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24), complete with a new way of living.
John: I had this happen very strongly twice in my life. I was indeed a “new creation” after recovering from my depression episodes. One would not have even recognized me. The hard part of being a Christian, however, is sustaining that new “creation” once the harsher realities of life re-assert themselves. One would hope that being transformed would prepare you to face the most challenging g trials of life, and it does, unless we forget the source of our new strength and purpose, and life can cause us to do just that.
Sam: But when a person turns from that rebellion and is born again, God grants the power to choose something else: Him.
John: Years later, how many people can still say they are “born again?” I tend to want to avoid that expression as it reminds me of fundamentalist Christians.
Sam: The Bible describes God as a Father in much the same way: One Who graciously teaches, guides, and corrects His children over every bump and misstep of the growth process. And I'm learning that He is a very good, very patient Father.
John: Patient indeed. Human beings are endlessly re-inventing themselves, but sometimes that is for the better as they evolve into more spiritual beings, compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded, and not judgmental toward people who are not Christians.
Sam: But, as I'm sure you know with your own experience traveling The Road, no path is without its bumps and potholes. After several years, I left the church I was attending, citing theological differences that I likely could have worked through had I been more spiritually mature at the time.
John: May I inquire what those theological differences were?
The road is long and winding, as I wrote in my recent essay, and full of dead ends and forked paths, but our true course, once established, always becomes apparent once again. Whether we keep to it is another matter, and that’s where we acknowledge the source of our being and come to know the true purpose of life
Sam: Somewhere in the middle of all this, the COVID pandemic happened, with its dizzying flurry of news and doom scrolling that fueled the persistent background fear that We Were All Going to Die.
That time had a profound effect on my faith. It caused me to deeply examine what I believed and what I cared about, to question whether I was really committed to God. It was a time with a lot of soul searching and a lot of tears. But I emerged stronger from it, thanks in great part to my brother, who spent countless hours listening as I worked through the questions and inner turmoil that surfaced on waves of fear and uncertainty. I realized I had more growing to do—and I was committed to staying the course.
John: The pandemic affected us all in profound but unique ways, and once again, because there was so much worldwide suffering g and death, it made me wonder how God allows such suffering, or rather, what is the real cause of this suffering, and how do we use it to see the light once again, or even more clearly see it this time because of the suffering and questioning, without succumbing to existential despair.
Sam: For the first time, I feel like I'm starting to understand what the Christian concept of church as a family. I don't know if I didn't have this before or if I just wasn't in a position to recognize it, but it's a strange and unfamiliar experience to walk in that door and know that I belong there and people love me and aren't going to reject me even as I continue to struggle and grow.
John: For many, this is a crucial component of being a Christian, having a “family” in Christ. My experience over decades is that the church is an institution that embraces families, men and women as couples, and children, whereas lifelong single persons such as myself feel estranged by this, and not truly welcomed, as if we simply don’t fit. All institutions, whether churches, or in our secular lives, strive toward and seek, even if unconsciously, homogeneity.
Sam: Yet Pearcy makes it clear that, as a Christian, the new life and nature that God is working in me should inform all aspects of my life and fundamentally change how I view and interact with that world
The Christian faith is more than a list of rules or a "get out of hell free" card—it's a total transformation.
John: I think this is very true. This is the ideal toward which we should strive, with the humble awareness that this transformation is a lifelong process.
Sam: Because, JG, I'm at the point in my spiritual journey where I'm digging down to fundamental truths, seeking to know God as He actually is and not who people or society say He is. I'm seeking to understand how to articulate, even to myself, that God is different than the paths I see others taking, that what He offers is earth shattering and life changing.
And I keep coming back to one fundamental thing: God is.
John: Sam, thank you for letting others comment on your letter exchange with JG. It has given me much to think about.
I close my comments with this quote from Daily Word (unity.org):
“If someone challenges my understanding of spiritual truths or if their understanding of how the world works is in opposition to mine, I may feel unsafe.
“But I can accept there are many paths to God and that even if we’re on different journeys, we are all divinely protected.
“Each person’s life experience gives them a unique perspective of the world. This realization helps me have compassion and not feel threatened by our differences. I don’t need to change anyone’s viewpoint to feel safe.
“Awakening to oneness means we are all family in God. No matter the state of the world, we are secure, protected, and loved.”