How do we prepare for conversations about faith? Here’s what Pastor David shared about that topic in The Deep End. If you feel intimidated by the thought of a conversation about faith, understand that you are not alone. And it just might be that this discomfort you feel is a sign that you are heading in the right direction as you think about a conversation about faith.
In The Deep End, Pastor David shares this story, One of the students (in my college religion class) was a young man named Chris. Regardless of the day’s weather forecast, Chris never wore shoes. Bathing did not seem to be one of his regular routines. In fact, grooming in general did not seem to be high on Chris’ priority list.
In the past few First 15s, we have been wrestling with two big questions that are encountered in the journey of faith: “Where is God?” and “Why is there suffering and loss?”. There are, of course, other tough questions that we may encounter as we seek to swim in the deep end of faith, but these questions can represent some of the more serious and mysterious challenges that we encounter along the way.
In The Deep End, Pastor David shares this story, “When I was in my late twenties, a routine blood test revealed that I had a problem. My cholesterol numbers were off the charts. In fact, my doctor told me at this time that he had never seen someone at my age with numbers as high as mine. What I would later discover is that I had inherited a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. I was going to have to go on medication immediately to bring my numbers down.
Today, I simply share Pastor David’s personal story from The Deep End, that begins on page 54. “My wife and I were married on June 23, 2001. A little over two weeks prior to that date we were on a mission trip in Oklahoma. I had graduated from Texas A & M that previous December and started working as an Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Cleburne, Texas. That spring Stephanie was finishing up her coursework at A&M.
You may have heard or you may have even said at one point in your life to someone else, “Everything happens for a reason. We just don’t know what it is.” In The Deep End, Pastor David writes about this commonly shared comment through the lens of Romans 8:38-39,
When the world asks why, what do we say? In The Deep End, Pastor David shares this response. “As a pastor who has been present with families in numerous instances of grief and loss, (when the world asks why) here is what I say.
It’s true that In the midst of tragedy and suffering well-intended, faithful and loving people might provide an insufficient response when the world asks “Why?” In The Deep End, Pastor David writes,
Beginning on page 33 of The Deep End, Pastor David shares the story of Rhonda, who grew up in what we might describe as a broken home. Her parents separated before she entered elementary school, but Rhonda can still remember the fights that would explode in her home prior to her parents’ divorce. Both of Rhonda’s parents abused alcohol and many of their fights included outbursts of violent behavior towards one another. It was while they were living in Chelsea, Massachusetts that Rhonda’s father decided to leave and return to his hometown of Key West, Florida.
The story of Moses is intriguing to us today. While tending the flock of his father-in-law, Moses comes upon a bush that is on fire. And he hears a voice; a voice that knows his name. You may know the rest of the story, that God is the one speaking to Moses in the burning bush and asks Moses to return to Egypt to free the Israelites who have been enslaved there. Notice that Moses “hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”
Embracing the questions of faith is an important step in encountering the mystery of a God who is always drawing us further and further into the deep end of faith. In embracing the questions of faith, we will find that one of the most pressing of these questions is, “Where is God?” This question often emerges from the inevitable trials and losses that come our way in life. The question boils down to the issue of God’s presence: is God with us through the highs and lows of this journey of faith?
Would you rather carry around a 3 pound backpack or a 50 pound fire safe today? I think I already know what your answer will be. In The Deep End, Pastor David uses a backpack and a fire safe as a metaphor to represent two common ways of understanding how faith works in our lives (p.8). A fire safe is designed for maximum protection but minimum flexibility. We don’t open up a fire safe very often and it really doesn’t travel well.
In the first chapter of his book, The Deep End, Pastor David shares that when he was about 12 years old he started to have problems falling asleep at night. There were thoughts that would sneak into his mind that stirred questions like, What if this is all there is? What if there isn’t anything at the end of this thing we call life? What if the end is just that; the end?
The Deep End is a book by Pastor David Alexander that expresses his own personal experiences and thoughts about how we grow in faith. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reading scripture, along with excerpts from The Deep End, to reflect on our own experiences of faith. In the Introduction of the book he writes, “In my experience, the process of finding faith often feels like we are losing faith.” He goes on to say, “It requires that we let go of what we thought we knew to embrace the mystery that is beyond ourselves.
As we end this first week of the new year, Christmas already seems distant, doesn’t it? How did we get into 2019 so quickly? What happened to last year? Events have come and gone that at one time seemed remote and impossible. So here’s a question for you: What have you learned from this past year? It is always valid to reflect on the past, both our failures and our victories.