The dialog between Rev. Dean Leuking and Helen Mildenhall about Christian faith in recent issues has allowed me to identify with both and to think about my own reason for attending church. Until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t been active in a church since my college years. I was raised a Methodist, was married to a Catholic in the Catholic Church, and was a Boy Scout leader with a troop affiliated with a Lutheran church where my son went to grade school. Like some folks raised in a church but not strongly active in one, I might occasionally state I was an agnostic, but when pressed in certain situations or ethical conversations, I’d challenge anyone if they suggested I was a non-Christian-depending on the nature of the discussion, my mood at the time, and if my mom was in the room.
I think many individuals join a church and are active because they like the social aspect and enjoy the other members of the congregation. There was something in this Lutheran congregation that brought back a “feeling” I had in my youth-something I didn’t want to leave when my son graduated from grade school. It was a sense of already belonging-a sense of being among good people who seemed like family. At the time, I would have told anyone who asked that I wanted to set a better example for my son as to how to respect and follow the last tenet of the Scout Law-to be reverent. While that was indeed true at the time, at least in my mind, the real reason I joined was for myself, as over time my sense of faith has been renewed, at times deeply challenged, but also strengthened.
Upon reflection, this “feeling of belonging” may be a portion of the very essence of what is our Christian “faith” experience-a “spiritual” essence that we commonly refer to as the Holy Spirit in our liturgy. It is distinct and yet integrated with the “belief” part about Jesus Christ as our savior within the Christian church’s doctrine.
Belief is not the same thing as certainty. Faith, by its very definition, denotes uncertainty. With certainty there would be no need for faith. Belief comes from the human mind. The mind’s nature is agnostic, rational, often certain, but ultimately, also, always questioning.
Faith drawn from the Holy Spirit involves our spiritual heart. The spiritual heart’s nature is untouchable, emotional, unknown-yet always somehow present, our very “being.” My faith flows not merely from the belief of theology found in my mind; it also flows from my spiritual heart, that is my spirit, my being, my soul-yearning to discover itself.