Musings & Younger Perspectives:
When Faith Journeys Converge | By Douglas Ferguson
Life events often define who we are in the eyes of others, in part because we tend to describe our lives by highlighting these. Even if major events don’t define us, the choices we make leading up to these events reflect on us. This is on my mind because I recently asked my (now) fiancée, Kimberly, to marry me. I am excited for many reasons: not least of which is that I’m marrying a Godly woman. I share this out of joy, and because I think it’s helpful to know how milestones affect the faith journey of others. Since I’m writing this you’ll have to settle for what I have to offer, but I encourage you to think about major life events you’ve experienced and the impact on your faith.
Kimberly and I come from divergent faith backgrounds, yet our faith journeys are fast converging. We’ve discussed, shared, and explored together… often challenging each other’s beliefs. I am passionate about being Methodist because we put our faith into action, but Kimberly gently reminds me that I am a Christian first and Methodist second. One key reflection for us has been what it means to follow Christ, and how that’s reflected in Jesus’ top two commandments: “Love God first and foremost and love your neighbor as yourself.” Liberal or conservative, most Christians fall short of this. What if instead of arguing over the smaller issues Christ didn’t even address, all denominations chose to support each other in God’s charge to love? Reason, experience, scripture, and tradition tell us that when we learn to be compassionate towards our fellow Christians, we also learn how to be compassionate Christians in the world.
Merging two different faith backgrounds is challenging. I am grateful to the Methodist church for teaching me to approach faith issues with an open mind, that it’s okay to disagree on smaller issues, and that my faith can actually grow through doubt. Openly discussing our differences with mutual love and respect has strengthened my relationship with Kimberly. More importantly, focusing on our common faith through encouragement, studying scripture, and praying together has grown my personal faith.
I have given much to the church, but as I enter this major transitional phase I need much continued support, understanding, and trust. Kimberly and I need to find a church that allows us to balance our different faith experiences. Leaving my childhood church is a painful prospect; I do not feel prepared. I’ve not been taught how to leave the denomination while strengthening my faith, or for that matter how to return. I know I’ll be welcomed, but what does that transitional process look like in light of life’s unpredictable journey?
Especially since I am a Christian first…
I hope my sharing encouraged you to think about the effects of current life events on your faith journey, and perhaps also provided insight into the challenges young adults face. Often life takes us temporarily out of our denomination… how are we prepared for this in order to return? One answer is listening to each other’s stories. This enables perspective, encourages sympathy, and empowers empathy.