This week I had the opportunity to attend a conference with Sharon Daloz Parks, a Christian author and scholar whose field of expertise lies in mentoring emerging adults (18-35 year olds) through life’s big questions. She spoke quite a bit about mentoring, spiritual journey, and the important role we each play in shaping and encouraging each other’s faith journeys, particularly for mature believers to mentor young believers. There are many metaphors and examples for faith journeys, from tilling the soil like the sowing of the seeds, to stages of faith formation by James Fowler, or the story of the Pilgrim’s progress. I will share one with you today that I found insightful.
Richard R. Niebuhr, former theologian from Harvard Divinity School, described faith as a journey that transitions from shipwreck to gladness to amazement. There is something so profound about this image of faith as a shipwreck. When we come against suffering, find that God hasn’t met our expectations, are unsure if we believe Jesus’ claims about himself, or are faced with the harsh realities of the world, we can feel like we’re sinking and that all is lost, and this can devastate us. Yet, as we scoop ourselves out (or better yet, as God scoops us out) of the waves and wreckage of our former faith we are filled with gladness that we survived such loss. We are able to re-order our world with our new knowledge and belief in God, and we can have a more adequate knowing than before. This depth and growth leads to amazement.
Yet, we don’t do this Christian journey alone. We journey in faith together as the body of Christ, and we are guided in faith by the Holy Spirit of God. In the Church we are able to walk with each other in moments of shipwreck, and we seek those around us with deep faith lives to speak truth into places of hurt, truth about the nature and character of God, his deep love for us, and for an assurance of faith.
This journey is about death and resurrection. A death to self, and our desires and wants, and a new life in Christ. Though we die, yet we live.