This is a question that is often on my mind. For the people of the churches I pastor I think the question is about getting more people in the pews. I understand their concern, yet it is not my primary concern. I want their churches to be a place where people are welcomed and strengthened in their faith. I think if the people who are currently in the pew (and me) are able to grow in our faith, then that’s the important part.
So, how shall we grow. In this morning reading from Joan Chittister’s Rule of Benedict, she tells this story:
“How shall we ever change,” he disciples asked, “if we have no goals?” And the master said, “Change that is real is change that is not willed. Face reality and unwilled change will happen.”
I think we, as human beings, spend a lot of time not facing reality. We think we can do the list of things we have in our head, because we think we have to do them. We stress about what isn’t, instead of embracing ‘what is.’
I remember the first time I went on a silent retreat. It was wonderful. My two sons were young, pre-school age, and I was alone for the first time in years. I realized that who I had become over those years was someone who thought she needed to take care of everything, fix everything, make sure everyone was OK. Wow, it was great to let go of all of that . To face the reality of being a very limited human being instead of acting like I was God. And I knew that if I had not been on silent retreat for 3 days, if I had not had the time to let the Divine Presence show me the reality of the life I was living, I would have continued to run around stressed out and exhausted by the ridiculous life I was creating in my head.
Of course I know there are a thousand more “realities” I need to face about my life. But, I believe that is where God can enable me to grow. When I willing, openly, look to the Divine Presence to see my life, I can begin to understand how my life needs to change. My life can be transformed by God’s grace, but the catch is I have to choose it. It have to choose quite time with God, I have to choose to open my mind to God, I have to choose to listen to God through scripture, friends, the world around me and in my heart.
For me it helps to know that God wants good things for me. It is the life that God can show me that is the best life possible. I want to grow in that life. I want to cultivate a deeper joy, and compassion, and grace, and discipline, and hope through the source of power that is unimaginable.
So, you want to grow?? Try facing the reality of your life through the loving eyes of God. Good luck – I’m praying for us.