39 Years Ago, a Thing Happened

Gratitude Day 450

Mon., May 4, 2020

Joshua 1:9: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Thirty-nine years ago, on May 3rd, a thing happened.

No, I didn’t get my driver’s license. (It would be a few more years before this happened.) Nor did I discover my first boyfriend.

Actually, it was something that happened within my spiritual life.

I confirmed my faith at the Augusta United Methodist Church.

I was in 8th grade and had completed two years of instruction to prepare me for the day when I would assume responsibility for my own spiritual journey. In the tradition I am involved, confirmation is when a person “confirms” the promises their parents made on their behalf at baptism. Promises in which the person declares their faith in God and the Holy Trinity. Their believe in sin in this world and their ability to sin. How we will support the church.

It felt like a big day, which it was. Three other classmates and I had met with Rev. Barnes weekly during the school year. Now, it was time for us to publicly share our desire to declare our belief in God and commit to making God part of our spiritual lives forever.

Honestly, I didn’t understand all of this when I was confirmed. I don’t blame Rev. Barnes for my lack of understanding. It had much more to do with me not listening or comprehending. At the time, confirmation felt more like a rite of passage: an important life event that was what teens my age did. My elder siblings were confirmed. Now, it simply was my turn.

Because of a family death, Rev. Barnes was not able to be in worship on Confirmation Sunday. A retired pastor, Rev. Walker, lived in the community. He led worship this day. Actually, Rev. Walker was the pastor when I was baptized, so it was kind of neat he was leading worship the day I was confirmed.

I think I expected something “special” to happen that day. Like, I would suddenly feel closer to God and understand just who God was. Maybe this happens for some people on their confirmation day. Honestly, it didn’t happen for me. In my memory, it seemed like a nice worship service. But I’m not sure that I felt any differently spiritually on May 4th than I did on May 2nd.

I did take seriously my commitment to be involved in the local church. As a teen, I participated in a variety of activities and leadership roles at this church. My first “official” public speaking role (outside of 4-H) happened at this church. I served because, well, that was the commitment I had made. I watched my parents serve in a variety of roles, inside and outside of the church, and this is what I was going to do.

It took years, and I literally mean YEARS before I began to understand what a personal relationship with Jesus looked like. When I left for college, I drug the Bible that my parents gave to me on Confirmation Sunday with me. But let’s be honest. It basically collected a lot of dust. After college, I became involved in a church and volunteered for a variety of roles. I dated a guy for awhile who questioned why I was so involved at my church. My response spoke more about “this is what I am supposed do” than understanding that living one’s faith means loving God and your neighbor as an expression of your faith … and this involves service within a faith community.

I was near 30 when I signed up for a Bible study where I begin to see what confirming one’s faith really means. This time around, I read a significant part of the Bible. I began to hear God’s promises over and over. I saw God’s presence as a major thread through humanity for thousands of years, as well as my own life. Faith was no longer something I understood just in my head; faith now became much more personal and something in my heart.

Finally, I began to understand faith differently in my life. I felt different, allowed faith to affect choices that I made and wanted to let God into all the areas of my life. For years, I was what I would call a really good pew Christian: someone who sat in the pew week after week. I gave, I served, I shared my gifts. But now? I let God into my daily decision making. I prayed earnestly for others and myself. I realized that if God was going to be a part of my life, then God needed to be involved in all areas of my life. Period.

This is the time of year when many teens “confirm” their faith. They reaffirm the baptismal vows that their parents made for them earlier in their life. They make promises to assume responsibility for their own spiritual journey. Many of these confirmation celebrations have been postponed and delayed until they can happen within a faith community worshiping physically together.

Whether you are a student who is disappointed in having to wait for their confirmation Sunday; or someone who isn’t really sure what faith is; or confirmed at some point but still not sure what this really means: here’s my message is you: No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, you don’t have to know everything there is to know about God. It ain’t going to happen. And this is OK.

Simply, give yourself some space and opportunity to know God on a personal level. As a friend. As one of those people you turn to when you’re having a rotten day and you need a shoulder to cry on as well, as well as on those great days that you really want someone to celebrate something super cool that happened in your life. Let God be one of these people who you turn to.

God doesn’t promise easy lives if we profess our faith in God. God doesn’t remove every hardship or challenge that comes our way. What God does assure of us is that we don’t ever have to be alone. And this, my friends, is Good News.

Today, we all have an opportunity to confirm our faith in God. We can do this anywhere. I invite you to speak with God for a bit today. Share your heart. Let go of your fears and disappointments. Will you feel closer to God if you do? I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that if you do this day after day after day, maybe something inside of you will begin to slowly change.  As you allow God to see more of your life, you will discover opportunities to include God in more of your life.

Spiritual journeys aren’t always about earthquake events. Yes, they can be. More often, spiritual journeys are taking a few small steps forward, followed by a leap back, more small steps forward followed by something that causes backslide. Our spiritual lives are not a spring. They are a marathon.

I pray you “confirm” your faith in God this day, even if you aren’t fully sure what this means. Confirm to love God and neighbor with every thread of your being. Agree to share some of your special gifts with the rest of God’s kingdom. And commit to seeking God out more in your daily life.

For the opportunity to discover God and confirm my faith, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – thank you for being patient with us as we explore faith and what it means to us. May we explore this journey together. Amen.

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