One of the members of that community sat to talk before they headed out to visit family over Christmas.
“I guess I feel like my faith is in a bit of a crisis”
I asked them to elaborate. They told me of their conservative religious upbringing, complete with the usual rules young people are often raised with in certain churches, frowning upon secular music and books about magic (except of course Narnia). This friend felt rather unsure of themselves now that they had grown to leave those rules behind.
What does faith mean, or what is the substance of Christianity, apart from this strict upbringing?
Now, I have seen many trendy young preachers gain a following by stoking a certain flame of resentment. These are the kind of people who sneer at the word ‘religion’. But I think this is an error.
Why should I pour scorn upon the well-intentioned and loving care of parents for the children?
As we talked we explored the possibility that it is God’s wisdom for a certain time that children should be governed by rules which, upon reaching maturity, might well become irrelevant or unhelpful.
Indeed, should we resent the constraints and guard-rails of our youth? Perhaps God was keeping us safe from harm by these things.
And it is not a betrayal of the love of our parents, when the time is right, to leave behind those old rules.
“But what now? How do I know I am living a Christian life?”
I was stumped. How indeed, friend?
I offered to my friend the possibility that as God has, by the wisdom of their parents, given rules at a certain stage of life, now God has given a community of love and prayer into whose care we can trust ourselves.
As the words left my mouth a flash of panic swept over me. The community of prayer in which we both live is somewhat new and immature in its ways–deeply flawed since it is a community formed around my ministry.
Can I really promise that we will be there for one-another? That this friend, with all their doubts and questions, will be held safe amongst us?
At that moment I renewed in my own mind my commitment that our regular gatherings should not drop off simply because many of us left town for Christmas. I told myself that I would continue to make that time and space in my life every Tuesday night, because we are foremost a community of prayer and it matters deeply that our prayers should continue for one-another even when there are only a few of us who are able to attend.
It is that commitment to come and worship which makes this community capable of a love which can sustain our faithfulness.
If we will gather to hold one-another before God in our absence, then maybe we can trust that we will hold each other when we are together.