Flexing the God-Muscle

by Charlotte Long, Youth Ministry

The topic at the forefront of my mind this fall has been lifelong spiritual exploration. Recently, a friend of mine in her late 20's contacted me to "chat about God." She was raised an Episcopalian, yet never had significant youth formation, and suddenly, in the midst of hardship, was finally feeling a need for it. She wanted to hear my spiritual autobiography, as it were. She wanted to compare notes on the Big Questions of faith and religion. She wanted to know it was okay to NOT know the answers. And she wanted to start somewhere.

I told her what St. Augustine says: "If you are looking for God, you've already found God."

Sometimes this is the first and maybe the most difficult step. We must assume that God is already with us, that God is waiting for us to enter into a divine relationship with the world, that God is already in conversation with us and listening for our response. It is far easier to jump into the void, to wander into [the sometimes wasteland of] spiritual exploration and wonder about the nature of God if we can assume that a relationship with God already exists.

But of course, it is not always so clear. Having faith that God already exists and is waiting for us - this is not often something we decide for ourselves just once and then never have to worry about again! This is where I think the "God-muscle" comes in handy. I imagine the God-muscle as my ability to wonder, to question, to be confused, to feel grace, feel awe, feel joy, and to be in dialogue with the Creator at all times. And it takes some work! We have to re-commit, re-examine and continue to exercise our God-muscle every day, in all that we do. It is just like any other important relationship in our lives. It needs attention and care in order to give us what we need.

The point for me in all this is that my spiritual exploration is never over. In every chapter of my life, I tend to look for or need a different face of God - and God tends to show me a new and different face, accordingly. The muscle that is needed for this kind of work needs training and practice. I hope to help our teens begin to learn how to flex it.

At the recent Rite13 Lock-In weekend (7th and 8th graders have a sleepover in the church, it's a blast), we took a brief amount of time to talk about the point of Confirmation, the responsibility of taking our relationship with God into our own hands as adults of this community, and addressing some of the "Big Questions" that are unanswered for us still (and maybe always will be.) Not surprisingly, they wondered about the same things my 28-year-old friend does: what happens when we die; why do bad things happen to good people; what does it mean that Jesus ‘died for our sins;' what does it mean to be an Episcopalian; am I allowed to not believe in God sometimes...

The fact that they were brave enough to start with these questions is a good sign, I think. It means they'll have practice for later on in life when their relationship with God is threatened by the loss and chaos that life sometimes hurls at us. Not only do we as adults need to model this practice for them, but we also need the practice for ourselves. We never stop needing it.

Continue the conversation with our teens! Keep working that God-muscle! Be curious and go to Adult Forum! An extra opportunity is coming up on the night of OCTOBER 19th, 6pm in the Great Hall. The Youth Group will be hosting the first of 3 Lectures of topics keenly felt by teens in today's chaotic world.

This first one will be: SCIENCE AND GOD Exploring the intersection of the Bible, the nature of God in the universe and why science and religion don't cancel each other out. Discussion and lecture led by our very own Fr. Chris Hardman!

Teens from 7th - 12th grade are particularly invited, in addition to their parents, grandparents and friends from other churches! We have constructed the experiences to be accessible to both young people and adults. If you are curious at all, we hope to see you there!

Look out for the next two Lecture Events coming February and May of 2015!