Today's guest post comes from Christy Ridings
In the interest of disclosure I feel I should articulate that I am neither a blogger nor a ‘techno-geek’. That being said, the level of appropriate self disclosure that happens in these types of forums may elude me so consider yourself sufficiently warned. What I am is a fairly transparent, straight shooter who tends to view life, and find God, more in my observations and less in my certainties.
Lately I have been reflecting a great deal on what I believe. Now, I am not speaking in a ‘faith crisis’ kind of way here. I promise this is not an observation about a wilderness experience where foundations are shaken or God cannot be seen from my circumstance. I have been thinking more about how my own beliefs, both conscious and subconscious, construct a framework for how I live and do ministry.
- What are my predominant images of God?
- How would I define God’s mission in the world?
- What does it mean to ‘bear fruit’?
- Who would (does) God include in ‘the least of these’ today?
- What is sacrificial love?
These are a few of the questions that help serve as my compass as I consider where I am finding myself.
In an effort to forego the ‘right answers’ to these questions, I have chosen instead to discern my beliefs by what I see reflected in my own life…to use my daily life and thoughts as the litmus of assessment. It has proven both enlightening and challenging for me.
About two weeks ago I travelled to Texas to be with a pastor friend whose wife lost a 5 year battle with cancer. The weekend was filled with community, laughter, tears, celebration and remembrance. It was one most tangible depictions of the Body of Christ I have ever seen. There is one specific snapshot from the weekend that has changed me and applies greatly to my own reflections as of late. Prior to a community wide ‘celebration service’, family and friends gathered for an intimate graveside service that told the story of Julie’s life and her relationship with her Creator. As we stood huddled in the rain under a pavilion (that proved insufficient for the crowd that had gathered) we began to sing. In the midst of worship, my friend, who was seated between his 9 year old son and his 5 year old daughter, rose to his feet, lifted his hand and sung as loud as I can ever recall hearing him. To witness my friend, less than ten feet from his wife’s coffin, proclaiming God’s faithfulness and mercy to those around him and to himself is forever burned in my mind. At that moment, my friend’s life depicted with certainty what he believed.
I long for my beliefs to have this type of clarity and for them to accurately reflect what I know about the God I serve. I want my life and ministry to have a framework that points to my Creator. But if I am honest, they don’t always. I look at my life and ministry and sometimes don’t recognize the architecture I have constructed. It is then I have to ask myself once again---what do I believe?
When I reflect on my views of God, His mission in the world and how I am called to engage those around me, often what I believe to be true and what my life reflects appear dichotomous. It is easier, less painful, to reside in the academics of my beliefs. It is much more difficult for me, and possibly for you as well, to fully examine our lives and ministries and use them as tools to evaluate what we hold dear. As I ponder the questions above, I am left with some honest, although sometimes painful, observations. I have come to realize my life reflects that:
- I still passionately love college students and believe it is one of the most pivotal times in life
- Too often I believe in (and demand) cooperation over collaboration
- Sadly, my belief in the necessity of solitude and silence proves to be merely theoretical
- I believe the wilderness is one of God’s most fertile grounds
- I believe God looks like me and relates to everyone else in the same way
And so I challenge us to consider…what do we believe? Even more I challenge us to be bold enough to look honestly at our lives and ministries and allow what we find there to help determine our answers. Only then can we assess what pieces of our architecture need to be refurbished in order for our beliefs and daily practices to coincide.
Christy Ridings is the Associate University Minister at Belmont University.