I’ve been haunted by an experience this past year that I can’t seem to stop thinking about. I went to a funeral of a woman my age with whom I attended bible college. It was the first time since high school that I went to a funeral of someone my own age which was enough to keep my mind working on overtime about the fragility of life. But what struck me the most is who we were when we first met and how we had both changed over the years.
Somehow we had both arrived in the same general geographical location but in our spiritual lives, it felt like we lived on different planes. Since then I’ve continued to wonder, how our different journeys could have brought us to two very different places. Both of us had been trying to be faithful and both of us were confident in the fact that what we believed and how we lived were faithful to where God wanted us to be.
It’s the same thing I’m struggling with now as I’m part of a community of faith where there are different views on even the littlest of things. How can we be faithful to where we believe the Spirit is leading us and at the same time find ourselves in a polar opposite place of where someone else is?
For those of you who don’t know me, I didn’t grow up in the denomination in which I now make my home. I have to say, leaving the denomination in which I was raised hasn’t always been the most pleasant experiences for me. I’ve had friends who have thought I was going down a dangerous path away from God. I’ve had people I’ve looked up to as spiritual leaders reject my calling because it wasn’t in the denomination of my birth.
But in my experience, connecting to one another spiritually has little to do with having the same mind on theological matters and more to do with connecting to one another in the ways of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
Just as I’ve had difficult experiences, I’ve had graced filled experiences. I think of one particular person whose graciousness has touched me. My piano teacher and I forged an adult friendship when we found ourselves in the same community years after we first met. We never really talked about theology but whenever we talked about faith, prayer and following God, I felt as if we connected to the same Spirit, the same Lord. Whenever we met together, it felt as if God was in that place. I suspect, however, if we’d have talked about theology, it might have been a different matter.
One night in my living room as friends from Bible College gathered to reunite, there was a similar spirit. Although God had taken us to many different places, it was evident that God was with us when we met together. It was a wonderful time and I’m grateful to God for this and other grace filled moments.
I also have many people in my lives who are distant from the church and yet with whom I have a spiritual connection. I think of my atheist and agnostic friends with whom I’ve felt a connection of the spirit and at the same time, I’ve met church people with whom it feels that there is more a spirit of conflict then a spirit of love.
I’m not sure what to make of it all. I still wonder how following the same God, reading the same holy scriptures and following the same Spirit can take us to such very different places. But in the end, I leave those things up to God.
Not one of us who lives life in the Spirit are God, but rather, we hope and trust in God. For my part, I’d rather put my faith in a God who makes us one in all our diversity than in myself who only sees part of the truth.
Come Holy Spirit, come.