I was asked an interesting question the other day by a friend. We were sitting in her office, talking about our kids, and she asked me when my son became a Christian. I stopped in my tracks and started thinking deeply. A lifetime of thoughts flooded my mind and I fumbled for an answer that would suffice, finally settling for what I thought would require the least explanation and seem the most genuine.
You see, I grew up with an approach to faith as an arrival rather than a journey. It was about being “in” or “out” and not about what or who you were pursuing. If you crossed the threshold of belief, than your eternal soul was secure. If you prayed a prayer and walked an aisle, then you had your “fire insurance.”
But as time has gone by, I’ve realized the error of that approach. It’s not that I don’t believe that there is some kind of threshold, I just don’t know that it’s as clear cut as some people try to make it out to be.
My mom always assured me that there was a day when I asked her to kneel at the side of my bed so that the two of us could pray. The prayer was “the prayer” asking Jesus into my heart. While I have no memory of the experience, I really can’t remember a time in my life when Jesus wasn’t a part of it.
As I’ve gotten older and grown deeper in my spirituality, I’ve come to a place where I realized that there’s no specific prayer in the Bible about asking Jesus into your heart. The Bible says we need to believe in the name of the Lord to be saved, so there’s a threshold there, but when it becomes about a prayer, I think it makes faith an arrival rather than a journey.
Growing up in the church, it wasn’t often that I saw people who would be considered “seekers” in my church. The people who were there had already been convinced, they had already prayed their prayers, walked their aisles, crossed their thresholds. But what of those to whom faith was more of a journey, a meandering road? Did they not qualify?
I’ve seen people come to faith in Christ after hearing a message and I’ve seen people come to faith in Christ after years of searching, seeking, and asking questions. I have a hard time saying that one of those is better or more valid than the other.
But faith is a journey, it’s not an arrival. I consider myself fortunate to have had faith a part of my upbringing. Others have come to faith through the side door or even the back door. They explored the property before they even stepped up to that door. They looked all around, checked under the porch, made sure everything seemed safe and secure.
When faith is an arrival, a crossing of the threshold, we can be in danger of letting it stagnate. What’s the purpose of growing something that serves no purpose any longer? If we’ve “arrived” then there’s no reason to continue moving forward, is there? Faith as an arrival can make us complacent, thinking that we’ve done everything that needs to be done, but that’s not really the faith that Jesus speaks about, or that Paul writes about.
In some ways, I consider myself a spiritual guide, guiding people along the journey of faith. People who think they’ve arrived at their destination don’t really like guides, they’re content to bask in the destination, thinking it’s the best place they can possibly be. A good guide may be fairly well informed, but I think they’re also always willing to learn something new, in fact, I think they’re always looking for that something new, that something that they missed along the way.
At some point, people move from searching to believing, but belief isn’t always surety. Faith isn’t surety. It may be confidence, but I don’t think faith exists without some lingering questions. After all, faith is the act of believing even when things remain unseen. How can you not have questions when you can’t see everything?