Recently we have been thinking about how we describe faith as a journey. There have been various ways of depicting this; a train, a boat coming out of a harbour, walking... you get the idea. It's a great metaphor for the way we twist and turn on our faith journey throughout life. My faith journey began when I was about 12 years old. I had been going to church for years before then as a child but never really connected with the concept of faith, I just sat on a cold pew and was told to be quiet. Once I was old enough to find a church and youth group of my own I became convinced that the Christian faith actually made sense, but it wasn't until I was 16 that I had my first experience of God.
I was at a youth camp and had started to get fed up. People had been talking about how it felt to be a Christian and I just didn't get it. It made sense, but I had never felt God, know what I mean? I laid in my tent one night and prayed 'God, its time you showed up. If you are real, then show yourself!' (turns out some of the people who wrote the Psalms did the same thing). Guess what? God showed up! It started with a tingling feeling in my toes and spread up through my whole body. I then felt so completely overwhelmed with God's love that I started sobbing like a baby! It was all rather awkward in a tent full of boys at youth camp, not that I cared at that moment. I went to the camp leader, woke him up and he spent some time that night praying with me.
You would think after that experience, I would be set for life. But no, in my early twenties I decided that I didn't really need God anymore. Life took over, I had lots of things to worry about and things just 'ticked along' . For a good 10 years I would probably of described myself as agnostic at best. It wasn't as if I didn't believe in God, I just didn't care.
It took a major, devastating time in my life that forced me to stop 'ticking along' and reassess what was important. I rekindled my relationship with God (although I am pretty sure he was around anyway, I had just ignored him) and so my journey took another twist once again.
The New Testament describes the disciples of Jesus as being on a journey of faith. As we read their questions and actions we could shake our head and wonder just how wrong they got it, as they veered from disbelieving to seeing the most amazing things, and then back again. We shake our head until we realise that it mirrors our own journey. They remind us that even seeing Jesus close up wasn't a passport to perfect faith.
We are all on a journey and we will experience times of disbelief and times of certainty, times of despair and times of feeling close to God. Remember, No ones journey is better than yours. You might think that someone else has it all sorted, but the truth is that they might be at that part of the journey, but will still have had tough times and will in the future. There is no hierarchy on this journey, it is the ultimate leveller that you share with every single person.
Thats why we need each other, Thats why we need church. The chance to share and encourage each other through the difficult times and the good. To walk with each other on this journey we call faith.