Have you ever written a spiritual autobiography? You know, a story about your own faith journey. It’s a fascinating exercise because it reaches a number of surprising conclusions.
Regular autobiographies tend to focus on career, accomplishments, degrees, and awards. In many respects they become journals of our ego trips. Spiritual autobiographies, on the other hand, really aren’t about us at all. They’re about how God has worked in our lives by using dozens and perhaps hundreds of men and women, young and old, who have walked with us on our spiritual journey.
For those who grew up in a Christian home, it seems as though that journey began at birth. Faith happened more by osmosis than choice. Parents took you to Sunday school, then to worship, then to various church school classes. And family devotions formed a normal part of growing up.
For those who came to faith much later, that spiritual autobiography often has a definite beginning. You might point to a camp counselor or to a significant youth event or to a friend who first mentioned God and peace and joy all in the same sentence.
When I wrote my spiritual autobiography about a year ago, I began by jotting down the names of people who have influenced my life over the years. The length of the list astounded me. Our spiritual journey never happens in isolation, I realized. It invariably happens in community. Each of us gets mentored—usually informally—by a host of saints whom God places in our path.
We call that discipleship, or faith nurture. As a denomination and as local churches, we do well at formal discipleship—through church school classes or small group ministry. But the strength of our spiritual journey depends on the relationships we have established—at church, at school or the workplace, on the golf course, in our social activities.
Whether we’re seminary professors, landscape architects, or assembly line workers, we’ll find another surprising similarity in our spiritual autobiographies. Not only does God fill our lives with an impressive cast of saints, but each of us invariably puts our faith into action. We can’t help but reflect our faith in all that we do. Faith without works is indeed dead. Our spiritual autobiographies are filled with action, a lot of action.
Our faith compels us to use our God-given talents in our careers or volunteer service and by seeking to meet the needs of people around us. When we respond to a major disaster, for example, that response stems from our faith.
There is something else. Our spiritual autobiographies are never finished. At least not until the day we enter eternity. God isn’t finished with us yet. We need ongoing, daily nurturing and discipleship. We need God to continue to send people our way who can change our lives. We need the church to continue to produce and provide ongoing discipleship materials so we can continue discovering new ways to experience God and new ways to share our faith with others. We also need to discover new people whose lives we may be privileged to influence. Mentoring is usually a two-way street; each learns from the other person.
Once you’ve chronicled your spiritual journey—amazed at the incredible number of people God has used to make a difference in your life—something else needs to happen. It would seem pointless to leave that spiritual autobiography in a bedside drawer or on your hard drive. It needs to be shared, especially with children or friends. It becomes your ongoing testimony of faith. Acknowledge when you send it out that this spiritual autobiography is a work in progress. After all, so are you.