This week’s post continues our series on the different ways people define, develop and communicate about faith. Our guest contributor is Christine Quenroe, a South Dakota native now living in Boulder, CO. Chris is a long-time friend, former librarian and thoughtful about her spiritual growth and path.
Bedtime, any night in 1957. My brother and I are on our knees next to mom, who is praying for the missionaries in a far-off country. Meanwhile, a few blocks away there is extreme poverty and people in need of help. Such is life on an open Native American Reservation in the 1950s. The lesson being taught was that prayer “counted” with God. Pray for those missionaries and you get credit for doing the Lord’s work without getting your hands dirty. It did not make sense then; it does not make sense to me now. What it did was make me question the sincerity of organized religion.
I am grateful that my mom got over it. As the owner of a small bakery in a small town in South Dakota, she began her own mission work: a ten-cent loaf of bread if that is all you could pay, a ride if you had to otherwise walk a mile in below-freezing weather. What I saw – but did not completely understand as a youngster – was that God’s work was the task that showed up at one’s door. The next right thing is always presented; it is up to us to accept or postpone the task. It is up to us to accept or postpone the opportunity for spiritual growth.
Although my church and Sunday School journey started at birth, my faith journey started in high school when I was asked to join a group that pledged to read the New Testament.
“Pfft,” I said.
“How would you know? You have never read it!” Clear as a bell, I heard that thought-voice (what God sounds like to me; he/she also speaks English).
It got my attention. I hiked off to the church, purchased a copy of The Good News for Modern Man and began reading a chapter every night. Did it change my behavior? No. Did I still become the wild child who drank too much and stayed out until the wee hours? Yes. Did it make a difference in my life? Absolutely. I am not sure how to explain it, except to say that when that first crisis came at college and I had nowhere to turn, I prayed because I had come to believe. I had not tested that belief until that night in my freshman dorm, but the instant I said “God, please, take this because I can’t take it any longer,” the burden was simply lifted. The effect was profound and is with me to this day.
What began as a leap off a very strange ledge of desperation, has become a working part of my life. Every time I put my belief to the test, my faith grows. My belief about God becomes and continues to become a belief in God, the power of the universe, creative force. The name does not matter. What matters is that I believe it. Is it for real? Is it true? I guess I will find out one day. For today, I choose to believe, and faith in that belief keeps me seeking one day at a time.
When the going gets tough (or simply seems unfair) I choose to believe that there is a task that I am being called to do, an opportunity to deepen my faith. I no longer reply “Pfft,” but I still often hesitate. And even though I know the answer, I generally find myself looking up and saying, “Oh, Lord, what am I going to do now?” To which the thought-voice replies “Just say yes. It’s not about you.” What call to action is inviting a “yes” from you today?