Who are you letting have an impact on your life. Some you can’t choose, others you can. The more intentional you are about selecting those who impact you, the more your life’s direction will be aligned with your purpose. Putting it another way and at an even deeper level, the people influencing you the most may have a huge impact on your faith life. You are the people you need to get closer to and who are those who you need to possibly move away from a bit?
Who do I have supporting and impacting me, particularly in the deeper parts of my life, especially my faith? In my work I meet so many people, especially those who are struggling who have hardly any support structure around them. Also at times those who do so much serving of others that they have forgotten or lost track of their support structure. For both of these, the lack of people having impact around them actually has a huge impact by itself, an impact by omission.
I also started off with life without much in the way of supports. Now having worked on it so hard, and for so long, things are so different. While in my alone times I was very grateful for my faith with the main support of my life, God, the more normal way of growing faith is in good connection with others. We are not meant to do it alone.
The first of the five people who have had an impact on me are my family. My family of origin’s impact was largely negative, leaving a void or an absence of support, basically being brought up by a nanny and then in boarding school, feeling very alone. Mum and Dad, where were you? They were at the other end of India fulfilling their mission or more actually, my Dad’s mission. However, it is strange that from that aloneness I reached out to God who in many ways took that absence and filled it with Himself. In my own family and particularly with my marriage with Jill, the rough times and challenging periods have driven me to my knees and have left us experiencing what the power of a threefold cord has been, making our relationship so strong. As we have got closer to Him we have got closer to each other. Parenting my five children has stretched me well beyond my capacity. I felt like vegemite (Australian marmite) so thinly spread over such a huge piece of bread. While I am so grateful and so honoured to be a father of such amazing, now grown-up kids, the experiences of parenting have been really confronting in showing me who I am at the core. For every one finger I may have pointed at them, there were 3 pointing back at me, showing me my feelings of despair, confusion and guilt, as well as shame. Again ,that drove me deeper underneath the rubble of my heart to the God who is with me and in me, to find such restoration there that I could get up again and reach out proactively to the family.
Secondly, my friends. I know it sounds really bad, while I had 1 or 2 friends in my teens and moving onto my 20s, I only started to get real friends from my thirties onwards. Prior to that, I could bring my feelings of isolation (especially before I got married) to God’s comfort, company and presence. While in the lack of friends I grew closer to God, when I grew my friendship circle around me, I found that to be so encouraging in my faith walk.
Thirdly, churches are the next group of people, as it were, who have had a big impact on my faith. In my travels in England, New Zealand and Australia over the years, I have had a variety of different types of churches, in different denominations including especially Wesleyan, Open Brethren, Anglican, Baptist and Pentecostal. I have been so grateful for the varying impacts all of these have had, depending on their differing emphases. While I have also seen differing deficits in these churches, I’ve also tried to again look at the 3 fingers pointing back at me to help me learn more about myself. Likewise I try to be part of the answer rather than the problem, in growing the body of Christ, especially in my local setting.
Fourthly, people with whom I have done mission and ministry have had a massive impact on my faith. When I was at medical school I sensed that the greatest way to have impact was just to travel through life with a few people who were also wanting to have an impact on others. That is exactly what has happened with the intentional proactive growth of the Living Wholeness community, who have challenged me not only in my personal faith but the expression of that, especially in going back to countries which have so much need, something which I had virtually vowed I would never do, having become a burnt offering on the altar of mission in my early childhood in India. On Friday 13th, (those days are not meant to be good days in Australia anyway), 2006, when David and Susanne approached me to consider taking the CURE to Asia I never knew how life changing and faith growing that would be for me. Doing life with them and others in this community has had a massive impact on me.
Fifthly and finally, the “person” who has had a central impact on my spiritual life is God himself. I would be alone, lost and out of control, dealing with that in a narcissistic (although no doubt covered up respectably) way if it wasn’t for Him.
I am grateful for all of the above.
Getting back to the beginning, one big thing I learnt and which I want to pass on is who you travel with has a massive impact on your faith life. You can’t choose your family of origin but you can choose your friends, the churches you go to, as well as the people you walk beside and let them be with you. So what are your next steps in terms of people you might need to distance yourself from or get closer to, so that you can grow your faith walk? You will see where I’ve come from and the picture language of the steps and shapes. I basically have drawn out the shape of my pyramid for you, looking at the shape of those around me during my life. How has your pyramid been? How do you want to shape yours?
Dr John Warlow