Monday, April 13, 2009

Faith Upgrade

After returning for the Summit at Ladore, I've had a theme hit me from a couple of different angles. It's a question I've wrestled with for a while. Will I ever "arrive" as a Christian or will I always have this need to take my faith up a notch? We're all very familiar with the concept of upgrades these days--to the point that if your phone is more than two years old, it is considered an antique and perhaps more appropriate to hang on the wall at Friday's with the Star Wars memorabilia than to hang on your belt any longer. We have no problem upgrading our phone or our laptop--it's just part of the march of technology. The newest, nowest and wowest is bound to feel less than when compared to the latest rage from Apple.

But I often feel less than as a Christian that I have this need to have my faith upgraded from time to time. Not that I want to plateau as a Christian, but there are times quite often when I ask myself, "How long have I been on this journey with my Savior? You would think I'd have figured more things out by now." But then having what adventure educators term a peak experience causes me to re-examine my faith, sometimes my theology, always my daily walk and see what needs to be purified further in my life. There's a part of me that wishes I didn't have to go through the pain of realizing my own spiritual shortcomings, but I find an immense amount of growth and value come out of these upgrade seasons.

A couple of recent Len Sweet Napkin Scribbles have hit this point pretty directly. If Sweet's podcast isn't on your playlist, you need to get it now--mostly 5-6 minutes in length, they are always interesting and accessible and sometimes deeply challenging. He had a quote from St. Benedict the other day--"The Spiritual Life consists of replacing one desire with another." This could sound like a one time deal, but I think this concept is one of replacing each desire in our life with another better, more perfect desire. Not once, but continually.

Sweet's most recent podcast "The Amazing Disgrace of Amazing Grace" tells the real story of John Newton and his most famous hymn. It details how Newton came to grace while working on slave ships running between Liverpool and the African continent and the South (US) in the 18th century. Sweet illustrates how most people think of this hymn and the conversion of Newton as being the story of a slaveship captain and slave trader who encountered Christ and had a radical conversion. The real story apparently is that although Newton was converted while working on a slave ship, he actually chose to captain a slave ship after he was converted. He believed he was behaving in a perfectly acceptable way, piously praying, running Anglican services on board the ship that carried slaves, all of whom were abused en route and many of whom did not see the journey through to completion. His was a respectable profession endorsed by the church. Sweet, using Newton's own words, detailed how Newton had to come to a place of understanding just how wrong this profession was after he had been saved. He needed an upgrade to his faith walk.

Cotton Presley shared a story of being saved and yet, still smoking cigarettes. He said very candidly, "Look I was saved and I had overcome alcohol and cocaine addiction with God's help. I was a Christian, I just had to wait until later to overcome that last addiction to cigarettes." He shared, comically, how he would slip verses of scripture into the cellophane wrapper of the cigarette packs and mentioned how much of the Bible one can memorize while smoking a pack a day.

So, how will it be 10 or 20 years from now? Will I still feel the need to upgrade my faith--to examine my commitment to the Lord and find out if there is anything false or less than par in my walk. I hope so. General Gowans once said something about the frustration some Christians feel that "It will take a lifetime to get to get to know God. Maybe, that's what a lifetime is for," the General said, "Maybe that's what a lifetime is for."