Paul writes, in his second letter to the church in Corinth (5:7), “…we walk by faith, not by sight.” I’ve been thinking a lot recently about that faith walk. In our strongly individualistic society, there is a tendency to think of our faith walk as one centered around our own personal relationship with God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit. A favorite spiritual says, “I want Jesus to walk with ME!” The old hymn says, “I walk in the garden alone…He walks with ME and talks with ME and tells ME I am his own…”.There are many such examples. But I know that’s a seriously incomplete understanding. My own faith journey has been heavily shaped and molded by the many communities of faith of which I have been a part: in planting the seeds of faith, in nourishing them and shaping their pattern of growth, and in sustaining them in times of doubt, discouragement and despair. I also know that, in those developing patterns of faith, relationships with others in the faith community are always reciprocal: I am both a giver and receiver of support and encouragement. What a rich and wonderful mix that is! In relationships within the family – with parents, spouse, siblings, children and grandchildren – as in the church family and in wider relationships with many others, I have always grown and learned as I have given back. Our faith journey is one that we undertake together, mutually encouraging one another as fellow members of many communities of faith. These days, I am particularly aware of challenges faced by family and friends who are aging. Some are wrestling with problems of reduced mobility and dexterity. More difficult are those arising from problems of dementia. Folks on that trajectory are also on faith journeys of a sort, albeit ones we all find very difficult to deal with. My theology and my intellect tells me that, in each of our faith journeys, God is always with us, whether we are aware of it or not. God is surely more faithful and consistent in watching over me than I am in paying attention to Him! I thank God for that. If God surrounds my life with his love all the time, even when I am not conscious of it, then He surely also encircles my brother, Brian, who hardly remembers me and surely does not remember that he was a faithful Stephen Minister in his church for many years, helping many others through difficult times on their own faith journeys. How does his community of faith – which includes me – play our part in helping sustain him, in these difficult late stages of his life? No easy answers there; but surely prayer plus a “ministry of presence” each play a significant part. Some stages of the faith journey are really difficult, even for some of God’s most faithful followers. We are called to do what we can to help sustain them, particularly during those difficult phases. The upside is that by seeking to be the means through which the Holy Spirit reaches out to them, we often find our own lives enriched in most wonderful ways. To God be the glory!
Don Mead, Author