I have been interested in God all my life and as far back as I can remember, trying to develop some sort of relationship with this greatest of mysteries -- which is common enough I guess in the over all population. As we age our understanding of God and our inherited traditions can change and deepen or wither and die, I suppose it mostly depends on our earliest experiences were and how we dealt with them. In any case not to move forward is to either slip back or to push off in another direction altogether.
Many people as they get older seem to move away from the "God" question and just live out their lives and follow whatever religious tradition that they grew up in. This can be a very good thing since it gives them a place to work from, and some direction on how they should relate to others, and also insight into the problems that come up that is common in all of our lives. Also it needs to be mentioned that their faith gives them, and I guess all of us, a real sense of community and support, which goes a long way in helping deal with the ups and downs of life.
So their faith is the background on which they live their lives some on a deeper level than others. However not much reflection is done by most in this group since the questions that they had are answered and nothing more is needed -- which can be a good thing if they don't become too narrow and dogmatic in what they hold to be true.
Some grow in becoming deeply rooted in their faith path, through study, and are a great help to those who need to understand certain things about their traditions; these people can be good spiritual directors to those who wish to grow in their relationship with God by using the theology and tools used by their particular faith expression, and can also be a support when they enter the "dark night of the soul" experience and need to move beyond a static idea of God. They are deeply anchored in their faith and through their meditations and prayers grow into very wise and caring people.
Others who study become more "liberal" I guess -- don’t have any other word for it -- and they try to incorporate their learning and experiences into their faith tradition. They may be less literal in their interpretation of scripture, become more inclusive in their understanding of how God works in the world, and because of that they my seek support from like minded people from other traditions who think along the same lines as they do. This group is also more open to doubt and use it to deepen their faith, and while it tends to be very broad in scope they still identify themselves with the religion that they grew up in.
Others move away from their religion altogether and become "spiritual" and draw from other systems of spirituality, or become agnostic or atheistic in their understanding of how the world just "is". These people can at times be difficult to dialogue or debate with, since 'some' of them have moved in one of those directions because of their past experiences, which causes them to remain closely chained to their past by their anger, or strong negative feelings, for the faith of their youth. Funny how anger does that, we would like to flee what angers us but in the end that strong emotion is the deepest kind of intimacy, not much different really from love, at least in its binding power.
I am not downplaying the pain that these people go through and I hope that those who find themselves in this dilemma will be able to find peace and healing. I suppose most of us carry some wounds from our past association with our faith, so it is easy to have compassion and empathy for those whose wounds go so deep that it has driven them away from their particular childhood religious community.
Now those who take the above path out of true conviction usually are easier to talk to and are more open to dialogue since they do not carry the anger or wounds that keep them bound to their past. They may still be knitted to the faith community of their past in some way but not chained.
Now I know that people cannot be boxed in to simple groups like the above but I think for religious people one of the above may be the main focus on their unique faith journey. I don't think one is better than the other since God's grace is operative and growth happens, just in different ways. The problem comes when the above groups cluster and look down on the others, for it is a common human fault to try to find some way to shine above "those others" who are not following the true path. This is a shame since balance is needed by all and one way of doing that is too simply to listen and learn from on another.
Really all it really boils down to is different personality types and also past experience etc. I don't think we are all that free to choose how we relate to the world and others -- though I think we have the choice to grow in understanding of others or choose not to -- so it is useless to denigrate others who are different than I am. It all comes down to being able to ask the right questions and being able to listen in the right spirit, so to speak. Of course this is easier than it sounds and I do fail sometimes, hence the reason for this post, since I am writing about my own issues in some of my posts and I suppose this is one of them.Which of these groups do you think you fall into? Which one do you think you will fall into later in life? Do you know people who fit into each of these groups? What do you hope for your spiritual future, and what can you do now to prepare yourself for your faith later in life?