The Secret Bridge
October 8, 2013
Fall is arriving abruptly this year, it seems with the help of remnants from a tropical storm that touched the shores along the Gulf Coast and moved northwestward to SC and the Atlantic Ocean. We have been promised a day of endless rain and along with it the temperatures will change from the mid eighties to the low sixties midday. As we listened to the weather report last night, we simultaneously announced that our Tuesday would be our first unofficial "jeans" day.
I woke thinking about fall and one of my favorite things to do. I love exploring state parks and garden trails. The leaves are beginning to sense they need to change and burst into color. The air is changing from the muggy, oppresive air which is difficult to breathe to the crisper, cooler air allowing those deep breaths and sighs of "ahhh!". I never know on those simple walks in nature what gifts of nature I might encounter leaving me smiling and in awe of God's world.
One of the benefits I have discovered in my walk in faith is discovering new ideas or concepts from authors of faith. In years past, I had avoided reading "man's" thoughts on faith because they were interpretations of how they saw and felt and experienced God in their life and I wanted the only real source, the Bible. My mentor's direction to add devotionals as part of my morning meditation opened up my mind to reading what others have to say. One of the authors who has my attention is Max Lucado. I had purchased his Everyday Blessings which is literally no bigger than a softball in the palm of your hand. His daily thoughts are simple and to the point. In addition to that book, Dottie gave me his God's Inspirational Promise Book. What I am learning is that yes, the thoughts in devotional books are those of the author, but they are written with their own enlightened knowledge they have received in their personal walks in faith. My attitude has adjusted to allow for the offerings of others in addition to my main source which remains the Bible.
I tread carefully on this journey as I would walking a trail new to me in a state park. I want to lean on sources recommended to me by others who have studied longer and are more confident on who they rely on for knowledge in faith. One of my greatest struggles seems to be in getting myself committed to attending a church service every Sunday rain or shine. I want to tell myself the problem is based on the fact that I had backed away from the church for a decade or more and had become alienated by the minutia of inner disagreements and the over planning of committees that I am in no hurry to rush back into beiing a part of to worship God. I laugh in thinking one of my solutions is to sit in the back, interact as little as possible and scoot back out the door. I have never been one for a lot of standing, smiling and as Daddy called it, "glad handing". I admit it. I am not a "group oriented" person. So I am a fair day Christian at this point and not happy with myself. In college I was part of a group discussion which dismissed religion as organized efforts of man to control our beliefs. Well, in some ways, I suppose I still have less than positive thoughts about why there's a zillion denominations and although they seem to be accepting each other more these days and finding ways to worship together and respect their histories, I remain lukewarm about the need for denominations and man's interpretation of Christ's first plans for "the church."
I have often thought about others who stand not far from where I am standing in loving this walk of discovery and love for God. How does one get from choosing not to acknowledge God unless there's an emergency which is when we all seem to cry out, "Oh God help!" to a place where worshipping God in a church is second nature?
Today Max Lucado gave me that secret bridge. He showed me how to allow myself time to move smoothly through this transition in growing in faith. I know I am supposed to go to church every Sunday. I know it is where I will worship God and bless others while being blessed myself, BUT tell myself you ought to and you have got to are not going to get me out my door and in through the church doors.
The secret bridge that you might consider offering someone who engages in a conversation with you about faith instead of simply saying, "You ought to come to my church" is this. There is a bridge you can take that will help you along the way and if you would like, come join me in church. As Mr. Lucado says, "Simplify your faith by seeking God for yourself. No confusing ceremonies necessary. (And I would add...none until you are ready) No mysterious rituals required. No elaborate channels of command or levels of access.
You have a Bible? You can study. You have a heart? You can pray. You have a mind? You can think."
I have seen members of churches who have it all figured out, you know, the schedule of going to church every Sunday. There are folks who have not missed a Sunday in 40 years! They have that part of faith figured out and running smoothly. But there are those of us who believe in God and are in a "transition phase" in our growth in faith. We are moving from the "me" phase of only talking to God when we are frightened, worried or frustrated. You know those conversations. "God help me!" and "Why me, Lord?" We are transitioning into a closer daily walk with God. Eventually are hearts, minds and souls will reach that place of enlightenment where other knowledgeable theologians and writers have been.
For me, I needed permission to keep growing. I needed time to move from wanting to go to church but dreading the things that effect me as a person in the Sunday morning things that I would have to adjust to, not to mention the challenge of getting to know a few hundred new acquaintenances. It is a formidable task for some including me. Thanks to our mother, I have memories from the past of how this can all eventually become second nature to me and I lean on those memories now.
In the meantime, Max Lucado gave me a gift today. He showed me a secret bridge in my faith walk that will get me comfortably from where I was to where I want to be. I open my frailties to you to suggest that as you meet and speak with others and an opportunity comes for you to open your mouth and say, "Come to my church Sunday" that you allow for the fact that some might need a secret bridge. If you see someone who has visited your church a few times or has joined your church but they are not active every Sunday, rather than judge in your mind's their lack of commitment, allow for the possibility that they need a bridge to get them there. A phone call or a lunch date where faith in life becomes a part of the conversation or in my case, a conversation with a friend who offered me a way to organize my morning prayers has been such a gift.
If someone visits your church they are on a faith walk. There is a reason they have felt compeled to come to worship. Some will need help in their transitions from not attending to making it a part of their life like breathing in fresh, clean, cool air.
If you are sensing a new awakening in your faith and find the challenge of going to church just that, a BIG challenge. Allow yourself to be yourself. Allow yourself to begin with a Bible, your heart and your mind. Support your beginning steps with conversations with a mentor who can answer questions and encourage you as you grow in faith.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for secret bridges in our lives that help us move from where we were to a closer walk with You. Open up our minds to understanding how others may find some steps in their journey more challenging than others and open our hearts to being a positive source of strength and light.
In Jesus" Name,