How is God faithful
to us? How are we faithful to God?
is the major theme of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The Hebrew
word hesed, translated "steadfast love," describes
God's merciful, tender, passionate, long-suffering, unconditional
love for God's people. Hesed is love that is completely trustworthy,
and is the standard for all relationships. Jesus' as a human model
of hesed demonstrates love that was faithful to death, even
death on a cross. The gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and empower
the Church after Jesus' time on earth assures us that God's faithfulness
to us will continue, even until the end of time.
We are not so
trustworthy. We must constantly be reminded to be in intentional,
loving, faithful relationship with God and with each other. We do
this by spiritual practices, but they take . . . well, practice.
Practice takes effort. Like athletes or musicians, that practice
may be unnoticed or unappreciated, at least until the pressure's
on. In times of crisis, we need to rely on relationships we have
already established with God and other Christians. Through these
relationships, God can transform our weakness and despair into an
experience of God's unconditional love and faithfulness.
is a practice for much longer than a week. I describe it here as
an option for you to consider longer term:
is when two people agree to give their attention to what God is
doing in each other's lives, and to seek to help each other be faithful
in following Jesus Christ. Spiritual friends commit to meet regularly
for prayer listening, and reflection. The intent is not to give
advice or fix problems, but to be intentional about sharing how
they are experiencing God.
friend need not be a social friend or a friend from church. It is
someone whom you can trust, and someone who shares your desire to
seek God's activity in your lives. Spiritual friends often set a
regular weekly or monthly meeting time, and may structure their
conversation to answer the following questions:
How have I
experienced God's grace in the past week? For what am I thankful?
I resisted God? What barriers have kept me from God?
For what do
I need to be held accountable?
One of the truths
of Christian formation is that it is a life-long process. There
is always more to learn and to experience about ourselves and God.
Christian formation is never finished, although it may be derailed,
or abandoned. Even when we struggle with or give up on our spiritual
practice, we are not abandoned by God.
family, or other crises may become spiritual crises, as well. We
feel that God is absent or that our prayers are ineffective. It
may seem like God has withdrawn from us and we can no longer reach
toward God. In the absence of environmental or organic reasons that
make us depressed, those who make a serious commitment to a spiritual
quest may experience what mystic St. John of the Cross called "the
dark night of the soul." This is a lived experience of separation
or darkness. It is a process which often accompanies the need to
let go of old patterns of behavior or belief in order to grasp new
awareness. It is allowing some part of us to die so to make space
for new life.
This cycle of
death and new life is central to the Christian story of Jesus' death
and resurrection, but it is also embodied in our human growth and
development. Children need to let go of childish behaviors and dependencies
in order to function as mature adults. Spiritual maturity includes
suffering and loss as the pathway to new life.
What have been significant losses in your life? How have these included
death-literally, emotionally, spiritually?
How can we grow
to spiritual maturity in a culture which seeks to deny death?
What new life
has God brought? How did you experience God's faithfulness directly
or through other people?
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