God is forging our faith on the anvil of our lives.
God uses our experiences to shape our spirituality in a way that equips us to flourish and remain faithful in the changing circumstances of our lives (see Romans 8:28).
Carlyle Fielding Stewart III writes the experiences of African Americans – slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, discrimination and racism – have been translated into a spirituality.
This “has enabled Black people to develop, translate and ritualize the hazards and adversities of their social condition into some meaningful culture of survival,” he says in his book, “Black Spirituality and Black Consciousness: Soul Force, Culture and Freedom in the African American Experience.”
The spirituality born of this experience has worked as a countervailing influence to the devaluing and delegitimization of African American peoples, Fielding explains.
This spirituality, he says, has spawned three keys that have led to the survival of African Americans: a strong sense of community, a capacity to embrace nonviolence and resiliency.
Life changes us.
I remember the first time I held our newborn son. In that moment, I realized my life would be changed forever.
As a parent, I have come to understand God and God’s love for us in fresh ways – God being a heavenly parent.
I appreciate in deeper ways the meaning of commitment and partnership through shared parenting with my wife. I know what it is to love someone yet let them choose for themselves.
I know sacrifice through the experience of raising children. Through parenting, God has changed me.
In his book, “Tracks of a Fellow Struggler,” John Claypool recorded what he said to his congregation at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, after his 8-year-old daughter had just been diagnosed with leukemia:
“Long before this happened to me, I had come to the conclusion that, it was the nature of God to speak to us through the language of events, and that it was the nature of the church for human beings to share with each other what they thought they had heard God say in the thing that happened to them.”
God is and will continue to speak to us through our experiences of both this pandemic and a refreshed awareness of racism in our country.
We – our churches, our families, our nation and our world – will be different moving into the future.
This is a liminal experience. That means we are in a place where we are passing from one place to another, and we are standing with one foot on each side of the threshold.
It can be a moment of disorientation and uncertainty. It can also be a moment of profound opportunity for people of faith.
God can teach us through these experiences if we listen to our lives. Claypool points out the church is the place where we talk about what we hear God saying to us as we listen to our lives.
At this point, it is still premature to venture a guess as to what all God will say, but God will have a transforming word for us.
When we are back together – and we will be back together someday – let us listen to God and then share with one another what we have heard God saying.
God is even now forging our faith on the anvil of our living.
Executive minister of the American Baptist Churches-New York State.