Four dead-end roads
How to arrive at a truthful and (if possible) joyful life? This is justifiably the desire of humans, and it’s my desire. I tried several ways:
- Child-like accepted faith. I accepted to have found truth and a joyful life through Jesus, without thinking about it. This failed when I began to think about it in ~1996.
- Intellectualized fundamentalist faith. I was absolutely convinced to have found truth and a joyful life through Jesus, as I collected and thought about and accepted all the fundamentalist’s arguments for believing in Jesus. This failed in beginning 2005 when I realized this had shifted me to a legalistic, joyless, strained life with deliberate but not necessarily true convictions.
- Experienced faith with emotions. This was the best time yet: I got to know Jesus in a totally different way as a loving, gracious friend and saviour. Along the way, I throwed out many legalistic and otherwise strained convictions and wrote about that. But the best thing was that I experienced God personally in concrete ways, including some few supernatural experiences that I accept as genuine even today and honest, precious relationships to friends. That was really a time of joyful life … it ended in first half of 2006 when I experienced God no longer in these ways and then started to question the genuineness of some of these experiences, and the validity of my emotional reactions to them.
- Demystified history-backed faith. The following time was filled with many philosophical considerations about God, genuine experiences with God, valid emotionality etc.. It resulted in throwing out many opinions I once held and now recognized as non-genuine, mystical and religious … as documented in my blog articles. The result was an intellectually justifiable faith in Jesus, and if only as the basic conviction that Jesus is the Christ if there is any God at all (which is also faith). My faith was now founded in the historical facts about Jesus and the hope to find contemporary miracles of God in the Second Acts project (see my article “My vision for my life, as a mindmap“). This ended on Tuesday (2007-11-13) when I realized that this course would lead me neither to joy nor truth: it is the stressful, self-navigated philosophical course of a desparate seeker, therefore something that excludes joy; it also excludes joy as it would not lead to any new experiences with God, emphasizing thinking so much, not doing; and it would not lead to a confirmed conviction of truth in the short run, as Second Acts is rather a long-term project.
Fifth start: Jesus-led practical faith with experiences
My above mentioned human desire for a way to truth and life is acknowledged by Jesus as he promised all three: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:16 ESV). Jesus even promised to be the way to truth and life himself – which is the new idea for my fifth start: to let Jesus be the way. Another way round: if there is an Almighty, there’s no need for me to live this stressful seeker’s life, as God is then able to lead me to truth and life anyway; and if there is no Almighty, there’s also no need to live this stressful seeker’s life, as there’s nothing to be found.
Now, what shall this analogy mean to “let Jesus be the way”?
- Stop to find out yourself. That is, at least for me, stop the current habit to philosophize, as it makes stuff really complicated and mostly joyless. The only alternative to excessive thinking is to start doing something. Which will also result in more practical articles in the future.
- Expect God to navigate your life. That does not mean to just sit and wait, but to stop worrying where all this will end. As, such worries are implied in a self-navigated life: the problem is navigation when you neither know where to go nor how to get there. Letting God navigate, however, implies to not expect him to adhere to your own plans (as I proudly did with my agenda how to find truthful and joyful life). But you can trust him to strictly adhere to good plans 🙂 Only if you let God navigate, you’re going to make experiences with God; when deciding all for yourself, you’re going to make experiences with yourself.
- Expect God to find ways to answer your questions. I won’t accept unjustified a priori statements about God and how he wants to navigate my life, and also, I won’t return to finding out myself about God and how he wants to navigate my life. But I expect that God will find ways to show me the truth about him and how he guides people, in a way I can justifiedly accept.
- Expect God to find ways to confirm himself by experiences. Philosophy shows what could possibly be true, but one needs to experience facts to know for sure. But, stop searching those facts yourself, as that’s stressful and joyless. Personally, I expect God to show himself in my own practical life … and to let me know what he does currently in this world. Wherefore I want to pursue this Second Acts idea further, but in a not-so-desparate way, expecting God to correct it or make it succeed.
- Find your flavor of a lively, relaxed, simple relationship to the Father, Jesus and the Spirit. There’s no need to dig up again legalistic or fundamentalist practices of faith, but you need a practical faith to get out of the theoretical realm. See below for concrete ideas. Whatever form you choose, put emphasis on a proud-free relationship that has room for collecting concrete experiences with believing God.
Caveat: these elements of “letting Jesus be the way” may sound as if one should expect an immediate, 24/7 relationship with God. This is not the case (see my article “The third way of life in this world“). You can expect God to navigate your life, but it is unclear in what way and when you can expect this. You’ll have to try yourself. From my experience I conclude that it can be very different form immediate, audible or visible words
Practical ideas for practical faith
As said, you’ll need to let God choose the experiences you make in a radical-practical faith that’s led by God. All we can do is to furnish an environment that fosters practical experiences with God. Here are some ideas, but as I’m right at the beginning I’m quite clueless and would appreciate any additions. What is very obvious is that practical faith needs practice: thinking and talking alone has neither power nor effect. One cannot learn how to live with God practically from philosophizing and blogging (as in my case).
- Fill the day with people. Whatever filled the day that was not practical faith, it is worth to be replaces by just that: by the simple and beautiful activity of having community with people sharing practical Christian love and building authentic relationships, which is very precious. One practical idea: when living alone, one might move to a flat-sharing community.
- Collect some inspirations for outer forms. The goal of every outer form of faith is to support and foster the practical relationship with Jesus. You may look for new forms if you find inadequate what you know; for example, look at some things the emergent church movement does. Any outer form that supports even such basic things as memorizing what you know to be true is worth to be considered. This may include appropriate dealing with music and lyrics.
- Find your positive access to the Bible. Whatever problem you may have with the Bible (or, more precisely: human conceptions of the Bible), it is the most important document for the Christian faith. Therefore, face your problems and find for yourself how to dig up that buried treasure. I once made good experiences with the four gospels, getting to know Jesus in a new way. And with changing the translation … . Also, I made the experience that faith can become quite arrogant and overcomplicated if one forgets the basics … which are spoken about in the Bible.
- Collect your prejudices against God. After a frustrating period, it might be a good idea to find out what exactly is ones frustration now. That avoids an overall, diffuse disclination and fosters to consciously lay down these issues and try to learn about God anew.
- Invest into honest, authentic friendships. This includes: daring to trust without fear, daring to be open and really (!) honest about yourself, daring to be interested in other people (not just their abilities or gifts), daring to enter a dynamic relationship without knowing the direction, talking about unconvenient matters, daring to struggle with each other (in a constructive way) and learning to do so.
- Start to believe again in everyday life. Pray and believe, as those who do not pray won’t receive. It might be a difficult time to learn why so many many prayers do not get answered and what God really wants, but without starting to pray one can never arrive at positive experiences with God’s gifts.