During the recent YMCA World Week of Prayer and Interfaith week, one of our Trustees, Caroline Stearman, wrote a reflection on her faith and what it means to her:
I would describe myself as having a Christian faith. This can mean so many different things and take so many different forms – so, what do I mean by that?! It will be interesting to try and write it down. It seems to me as though it is not a static thing – it is emerging and changing all the time for me…
My sense is that we are all more than cognitive, physical and emotional beings; we also exist within a spiritual domain as well. And I believe that in this spiritual domain there is a fundamental source of goodness and love in the world which is ever present, and which it is possible for us to be in connection with. An energy which is fundamentally non-judgmental and accepting of everyone. I call this energy, this spirit, God. I believe that the person of Jesus was a particularly powerful and special example for us of what it looks like to live a life in connection with God.
Being a Christian is about seeking to live a life of faith, believing that I am loved and I am accepted for who I am – not just the good and worthy bits of me – but the whole of me. It is not about following a system of belief or a set of rules and dogmas. It is about a life lived in connection with God.
What does this look like in my life? In my inner world, it is about seeking to be honest with myself about my lightness and my shadow, where I am imperfect and need help, being real about who I am and how I am and opening myself up to the possibility of change, learning and growth in my spirit and my life. In my outer world it is about trying to choose a way of living which is kind, accepting of others, seeking to have a positive impact on the world I inhabit, even in a tiny way. It is attempting to live with values of love, generosity, forgiveness and hope.
I do pray, most often when I am out and about walking the dog or travelling. I find it hard to sit quietly and pray and I don’t particularly enjoy formal prayers in a church setting. It is more of an ongoing conversation that I have with myself and with God – and I pick it up whenever and wherever I am.
I think there are two main things I find when I pray. The biggest thing that prayer does is to help adjust my perspective on things. It often helps me to stand back, reflect carefully and see things differently.
The more time I spend talking with and being in the presence of God who I understand as the essence of all goodness, love and kindness in the world, the more I feel it rubs off on me and how I try and make sense of my experiences or the experiences of others in the world. And because of this I find praying a very precious resource. It helps me ’right-size’ myself and my opinions and put them into a bigger context.
The second thing it does is help me to learn how not to hold on to things too tightly and try and fix and control them myself. I bring to God in prayer things that I worry about, people I am concerned about, world horrors that feel overwhelming – and I ask them to take these things and look after them for me. It is an act of letting go which I also find important as there are so many things I care about but can’t control in the world.
Living a life of faith for me is about finding a deeper sense of identity. Not that I always feel clear on that, by no means. A lot of the time it simply feels like a mystery…and daily life is tough…and that is OK. I don’t feel I need to have all the answers and label things as ‘the truth’; for me it is enough to believe that we are all loved and accepted for who we are and that we can live with an
experience of this – I call that grace.