A teenage girl once asked her youth leader, “Why is this important?” “This” referred to the whole notion of church, religion, God, and our involvement in it all. The youth leader sputtered into Rehearsed Speech #12, which answered none of her questions, and she kind of shifted into that teenage thing where she’s too polite to interrupt, but has clearly checked out of the conversation. Rehearsed speeches can be incredibly damaging, and damaging someone’s faith, at so young an age, is a terrible thing to do. But this was a person whose faith was already near non-existent, despite having grown up in church. The church had failed, utterly, in seventeen years, to reveal anything of the living God to this young woman.
There is nothing in the air that is going to reveal God to you. The whole question of faith is stretching out beyond our natural cynicism and skepticism and reach for something greater than ourselves. If you seek God you will find Him, your faith will find expression.
But, from a standing start, our new generation of seekers may find it difficult if not impossible to embrace a traditional Christian faith because so very much damage has been done to faith by religion. Religion is, in essence, mankind’s search for God. Faith implies a relationship with God. The expression of that faith, of that relationship, can be organized into religion, but religion in and of itself does not necessarily constitute faith.
That’s how we have a girl sitting in the back pew for seventeen years who has, apparently, no visceral conviction about Who God is and no apparent expression of that belief. What she does have, however, is religion.
Faith is a lot like riding a bicycle. Intellect fights with your instinct when you’re trying to learn to ride a two-wheeler for the first time. The notion of balance is more visceral than intellectual, as intellect tells us without some counterbalance to the two-wheels (such as training wheels), we’re likely to pitch over. And, if we pitch over, the concrete will be hard. Similarly, we can’t teach anybody how to have faith. You just try. And you pitch over and bust your head on the concrete. But you dust yourself off and you keep looking, you keep trying.
Our Emmanuel Experience can seem confusing, funny, poignant, spiritual or even funny to those who don’t know God, or to those whose expression of their belief is more conservative, more liberal, quieter, louder, Old School, New Age, freestyle or ritualistic. We are all of those things, but we pray without ceasing and praise without limits. Still, whatever your individual experience, our common shared joy is the knowledge of Who Jesus is and having a meaningful, true relationship with Him.
We are creating an archive of essays about questions of faith and meaning. What’s this all about? Why is it important? How do I get started?
HOW TO KNOW YOU ARE BORN AGAIN
WHAT IT IS, WHERE TO START
WHAT IT IS, WHAT IT’S NOT, HOW IT WORKS
WHAT IT IS, WHO’S GOING THERE