Consider this phrase: willing to be changed.
This attitude is at the heart of any faith journey: the conscious consent to being transformed by that which we encounter. Perhaps, sometimes, that means the conscious discernment about how we wish to be changed, and the pursuit of experiences that will shape us — though that pursuit can look temptingly similar to our wider culture’s constant promise of self-improvement. I wonder if willingness to be changed is not about pursuit as much as it is about surrender: consent to the discomfort of hearing truths that implicate me, consent to experiences over which I have less than full control.
ECMN’s Missioner for Evangelism Marcus Halley, speaking at the recent Forma conference, gave a provocative call to all of us to consider whether we are, in fact, willing to be changed. Our liturgy, meant to be a container for transformative experience, can easily become a container in which we find ourselves safe from a God who might like very much to encounter us. Vulnerability is terrifying; it’s easier to put God safely elsewhere and admire him/her/them/etc from afar.
Alas, all the evidence in our Scriptures suggests that God is not much interested in our far-off admiration or gratitude. God desires encounter, intimacy, the kind of push-and-pull relationship that cannot happen unless we are willing to be changed by it. That is at the heart of all faith formation: intimacy with God.
How do our practices and programs make space for encounter with God? That is a worthy question for all of us engaged in and responsible for shaping our faith community’s gatherings. If you would like to follow that question, join Marcus and others for a workshop on Saturday, April 2. I hope you’ll join us.