Faith history

Reading the Bible

Have you ever sat down and documented your personal faith history? I’m not talking about Church teaching; but what that teaching has meant to you alongside your own life experience. Looking back, you will see a pattern of spiritual growth that is universal and yet uniquely you.

My own journey has been like this:

When I was 4 the sky was a roof and on the other side was a place called Heaven.

Jesus lived there with his father God and the angels. Jesus was the children’s friend. I prayed to him every night: “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child…”

But I was a bit scared of God. He told my mother I had scribbled on the wallpaper.

When I was 10 I had a Bible and I was supposed to read it right through every year. I could almost do that if I skipped the laws and the begat books. I really liked the Gospel of John. The words seemed to go through me like a great wind.  I loved Jesus but didn’t much like God. Being God, he would have known that Adam and Eve were

going to disobey him, and then he had his son killed to make up for that.

When I was 20, I was a Sunday School teacher who looked for positive Bible stories to tell children. I didn’t want them to be scared of God. I now understood much of the

Bible as the faith history of a nation and not a collection of books dictated by God.

Jesus was still my closest friend, and God was best described by the beauty and grandeur of nature. Silent “listening” prayer had become important.

At 30, I lived on a farm with my husband and four beautiful children. The Christian teaching I’d grown up with was like a coat that was too tight for me. I read about other religions, borrowing books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism. I sensed Jesus in all of them as “the Word made flesh.” For a while I dropped the word “God” because it carried too much baggage, and substituted expressions like “First Cause,” “Prime Mover”, Cosmic Consciousness.”  Eventually I went back to ‘God” because it was simpler.

In my early 40s I’d come through a period of severe loss that had removed a lot of the clutter in my thinking. I still read religious material, including the Bible, but was reading it now as parable. I felt a strong presence in me and everything else that I could only name as Jesus. The writings of the Mystics led me to the Catholic Church where I came home to sacred mystery.

From 50 – 80? The journey in the church continues with the path getting wider. Tensions still arise on the surface but beneath them there is peace and a sense of a love too big for words.

I suggest you reflect on your own faith history. However you’ve judged the past, you will see the hand of God in all of it. Your life journey has been a personal form of “sacred text.”

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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