This past week a writer, thinker and theologian I have found very helpful in my faith journey, passed away. Marcus Borg, a Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, has written several books that have clarified important pieces to the puzzle, the mystery, and the experiences that have been mine along the way of following Jesus. They have been a guide to help me figure out why I just can’t quit my faith even though I would often really like to.
Today as I was thinking about Marcus Borg’s passing and the many Facebook posts I saw about the impact of his life, it brought to mind recent conversations with others about faith roots and the spiritual journey. I decided to look again at Borg’s book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and was very glad I did.
In its pages I rediscovered my own personal reality all over again. I now understand what it is that keeps me going back to faith. It is that I sincerely believe Jesus lived a life of spirit that I too have experienced. Like Marcus Borg, my understanding of God is this:
“…God refers to the sacred at the center of existence, nonmaterial ground and source and presence in which, to cite words attributed to Paul by the author of Acts, “we live and move and have our being”.
THIS is my faith. It has always been my faith, even from the time I was a very little girl, I have known this center of existence. This grounded sense of being in my own life is the force that has transformed my relationship with the Bible, with churches and even more with the world I live in. I have wanted to live with deep awareness of God’s spirit for as long as I can remember. It was this awareness that led me to become an Evangelical Christian.
My involvement in various churches and ministries within this worldview allowed me multiple opportunities to learn and grow with other sincere people of faith. I read, studied and memorized the Bible, I prayed alone and with others, but one thing that I was never comfortable doing was sharing the Evangelical gospel with the express purpose of saving people from hell. I think it was because fear of hell really was not an issue for me. Though I eventually adopted a belief in a literal hell and learned to act like it mattered, deep down it never really did. My life wasn’t about being saved from eternal damnation as much as it was about being present and awake to God in the here and now. That said, I didn’t ever really understand that until I moved to place in the mountains of northern Utah where living near the mountains rocks, streams and amazing displays of light allowed me to immerse myself in nature. Something profound woke up in me and I knew that whatever it was, it was where my genuine real faith found a home. Often there were no words to describe the knowing at all.
It has taken me over a decade to process my faith experiences from my religious experiences as both have been very different. Various authors like Sue Monk Kidd, M. Scott Peck, Tony Campolo, Brian D. McClaren, Rob Bell and more recently Marcus Borg have allowed me to understand a great deal about my own personal journey. Most profoundly though, a Franciscan priest named Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward landed in my lap just as my entire world seemed to crumble and has guided me through a very real work of the Spirit of God that I have always known throughout my life. This same Spirit, my ground of being, has helped me come to a place where I am ready to let go of what lies behind me and move on.
Today Dean’s and my social network extends beyond any one church and much to our great joy it is full of misfits, uneducated, scholars, rich, poor, straight, LGBTQ, as well as the occassional breath of fresh air we suck in when we find people of other ethinic groups to enjoy bread with. I am finally looking forward to what is yet to be in my life.
In conclusion, I must return to Marcus Borg and say to him, “Rest now, faithful friend of Jesus, you have left much for us to ponder for years to come.”