As you look back over your faith journey, how has yours changed over the years? As you look forward into ongoing journey of your faith, what can you expect?
I am now 63 and have journeyed in my faith for over 50 years. In some ways I faith is just the same as it was right at the beginning, but in other ways it has significantly changed.
Every part of our life changes as we grow so why not also with our faith? If it does change how does it change? When we look at our lives as we change with age, we go through various phases. Looking at the whole person as shown by the circles in the CURE, and starting with our outer circle, socially we leave our family of origin, find friends and then look for a partner and most people get married, some for life. We go from school to work. Moving inwards, physically we grow bigger, go through puberty, and then later on if you are a female, you go through menopause and there are other physical changes which we all have until we die. Physically, we behave differently and do things differently as we get older. In our minds, our thinking is able to move from concrete literal physical thinking to more abstract mind thinking, as we move into our teens (although not for all of us). The core of us in our hearts, in some ways changes less than the outside. If you want to find out more about that, get the CURE for Life, Part 2, God Centred Relationships, which goes deeper into the person and into the core of our being. The CURE maps out how our hearts change, in line with what the developmental theorist Eric Erickson states.
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development )
So what about our faith does that change with development and if so how? It was interesting that Jesus said to some adults, that unless they became like children they would never enter into the kingdom of God. In some ways He may have been saying that children have an easier capacity to trust and to have a relationship than adults. Because the core of faith is relationship. For me, when I was at primary school, feeling very alone, I had that sense of a relationship with God which met me and went right to the core, providing that sense of company and presence which I didn’t have around me, in the loneliness of boarding school. That need for relationship is still the same although outside of myself, my social life is now much richer. For me the primary relationship is still the one between God and myself. Illustrating this with the shapes of the CURE, in the triangle, the net flow of relationship, which I seek to move towards more and more, is one of God through me to others, so I can live a proactive life rather than reactive to others. As I went to high school and on into university, while the underlying need for relationship continued, I was able to grow in my knowledge of God’s word, the Bible. As my mind and physical capacities grew I spent more time reading the Bible, and engaging in faith-based behaviours. At one stage in my early 20s, I was attending church 5 times on a Sunday. Not having the responsibilities of a family I had that greater capacity and freedom to be involved in mission and ministry. However, these more peripheral activities outside of my heart (as shown by the Circles in the CURE), didn’t actually change the essence of the foundational relationship part of my faith, but more the understanding and expression of it. When my own family grew in my thirties, my capacity to have free time to express my faith in as many ways as I had before became more constricted. To others it may have looked like my faith is changing. Despite the business, I was still involved in the early developmental stage of the growth of the Living Wholeness community and with them developing the CURE, otherwise known as the “Christian Wholeness Framework”. Financially there was a need to work hard to keep the bucks flowing as they say, yet through all of that time, although as it was more on my knees with the struggles which I was facing, that underlying faith consolidated and continued. I could still, as before, exchange my aloneness and shame for His love, my guilt and confusion for His forgiveness and status in Him, my despair for His hope and freedom. I still had a spiritual home of relationship with God even as I had as a 7-year-old back in India, which had never changed and still doesn’t. As the mission side of things has grown, as well as knowing that for me my faith grows much more in the quietness and reflection of my devotional times when I am on my own with God, I don’t go to church of a Sunday nearly as many times as I used to. Some may think that my faith is deteriorating. I have cut down my psychiatry work to 2 days a week so that the mission side of things can grow. But those are all outward expressions of an internal faith.
In this post-modern culture a lot of people go on about how our faith becomes more “grey” and less black and white, as we grow. I think there are still black and white aspects to my faith in terms of the fundamentals of coming into a relationship with God and keeping that growing, as known by the shape of the Cross in the CURE. I am gradually moving from the left-hand side of the Square to the right hand side (read it in the CURE), from self-centredness to God-centredness. Sometimes I’m above the water level in various parts of my life and at other times below. I succeed I struggle. But in all of this I seek to be moving towards God-centredness. As I grow my understanding of people, particularly in my professional capacity as a senior Adult, Child and Family Psychiatrist, I am aware of much greater complexities in life. Mix those complexities and challenges together and the colour of what people face does turn a lot more to grey and blurred. Nevertheless, underneath all of those, there still is that same underlying black-and-white need for that relationship to fill the core of our being. If you yourself want to pursue that further, especially look up the Square, the shape of the Cross and the combination of both in Part 1 of the CURE. It invites you to do a U-turn, to admit when you’re at, believe what Jesus has done and change. It’s as simple as the ABC.
So, how about you? What is happening with your faith? Do you even have a relationship with God? Is it growing in understanding and knowledge and being more available to God as He wants to use you? Those have been challenging questions, which I have asked myself in terms of development of my faith. If you want to find out more, check out Fowler in terms of how faith development changes. I don’t necessarily agree with you at all, but at least it is someone else thinking in this way of faith and development. ( https://www.google.com.au/search?q=fowler%27s+stages+of+faith+development+powerpoint&rlz=1C1CHZL_enAU758AU758&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1q9O57JrcAhWLmpQKHS6hAJkQsAQIMA&biw=1396&bih=665 ) in my reading, parlour looks at the development of faith or at least its understanding and expression, through a cognitive/mental development, lens.
Dr John Warlow