We each have a story to tell. The story of what happened to us yesterday. The story of how we met our partner. The story of the birth of our child or grandchild. The story of how we overcame a struggle or crisis. The story of how we found our place in this crazy world. One of the important stories we tell is about our faith journey.
Faith is our belief and trust in God. Faith is both a gift and a choice: It is a gift from God and a choice we make every day. Faith does not happen overnight, it’s a journey. The goal of our faith journey is to deepen our relationship with God. The goal of sharing our faith journey story is to inspire other people. For most of us, there are ups and downs, and sometimes long plateaus, but with patience and practice we can deepen our relationship with God.
It is through telling our stories that the need for justice is heard. Stories of gun violence, oppression and discrimination remind us that there is work to be done in our communities and in our nation. It is through telling our stories that we energize people to work hard to make sure every person is safe, has enough food to eat, clean water to drink and a good education. It is through telling our stories that we encourage one another in our grief, illness and struggles.
Each person’s faith journey is unique. To begin thinking about and writing your faith journey story, I suggest you start with these questions. What is your first memory of attending a church, synagogue, temple or mosque? Who was your first or most memorable religious education teacher? Did you attend worship every week or just on holy days? Did you attend with your parents, grandparents, other family members or with friends? What is your favorite part of a worship service: the hymns, the prayers, the liturgy or the gathered people? When did you first realize that God loves you and you are a beloved child of God? If you are a Christian, when did you first realize that Jesus was calling you to follow him?
Your faith journey story includes your affirmations, questions and doubts. Do you believe in God? What do you believe about God? What does Scripture tell you about God? If you are a Christian, what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What does Scripture tell you about Jesus? Which Scripture teachings and stories speak to your heart? And which ones leave you confused and wondering? Which stories offer truth?
Jesus did not share his faith journey story but the Gospel writers tell us lots of stories about his faith journey, from his birth to his resurrection. Jesus loved to tell stories that reflected the time and place he lived. He also loved to tell stories that help us understand something about God. As the followers of Jesus saw him heal people, feed people and extend God’s love to people, they told these stories to others. This is how the numbers of Jesus’ followers grew, by sharing stories. After Jesus resurrection and return to God, the disciples and Gospel writers shared their stories about Jesus and the early church began to grow. The Apostle Paul told people the story of how he heard the voice of Jesus calling him to ministry. Paul established churches all over the known world and continued to share his faith journey story and encouraged other people to share their faith journey stories and the church grew even larger.
To grow our churches, synagogues, temples and mosques, we need to share our faith journey story with other people. The words of sacred texts can guide us on our faith journey, but sharing our story touches people’s hearts and helps them see their story in your story. It is through hearing and sharing faith stories that we grow closer to one another and closer to God.
The Rev. Monica Ouellette is pastor at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg.