Faith Sharing 101
Written by: Lisa Kelly
It’s 7:00pm on a random Wednesday night. One by one, 4 or 5 cars pull into a driveway or find a space under the streetlights to park. The front door opens and closes. Greetings are exchanged. Friends briefly catch up. Six adults sit comfortably in the living room. No t.v. The room grows silent. Time is taken to settle the hurried pulse of the day, to clear the monkey mind of its jumble of worries and to dos. For the next hour each is here to listen and to share where God has been present and seemingly absent from their lives over the last few weeks.
This is faith sharing, Ignatian style. We are different ages, some retired, some with young children. But we all have one thing in common: We daily live our lives through the practices of Ignatian spirituality: Praying the Examen, seeking God’s presence within the busyness of everyday, taking action in response to the callings for justice, compassion, and love we see around us. But this countercultural road we walk of contemplation, simplicity, and service to others is not easy to walk alone. So we come together to share our consolations and desolations, our moments of experiencing God’s call in our lives and our moments of distance from God. It is not therapy or counseling. Rarely does anyone directly respond to another’s statements. We are there to witness to what we’ve experienced. Literally to say, “Here’s what has been happening in my prayer life, my faith walk.” Sometimes the sharing is a powerful inspiring testimony to being overwhelmed by the love or beauty of life. Sometimes it is the angst of a prayer life that never seems to quite find a rhythm or regularity or commitment of the heart. Sometimes it is the ache of not being able to feel the consolation of God in the midst of a time of hardship. Sometimes it is the naming of a new invitation to be discerned.
The gift of faith sharing is in both listening to others’ deepest faith realizations and in having the opportunity to articulate your own. In hearing the faith journeys of others, we have a front row seat to the story of God’s activity in the modern world around us; we are inspired by the faith sharer’s dedication to their faith or their commitment to live it out despite obstacles. We are reassured of our shared humanity by hearing about their faith challenges. In sharing your own faith journey, you have a place to be held accountable—it’s not confession or reconciliation (though at times the need for that is articulated in awareness of what is stirring in the heart) – but rather a safe place to share a faith challenge long before it has become a sin to confess. So often just bringing what is in the dark within us to light allows its grip on us to be overcome. The sharer also has a safe place to celebrate the work God is doing within us. How many places can you go and start a conversation by saying, “This morning when I was in prayer….”?
We are willing to talk with people about our money, our professional lives, even our private intimate relationships. Faith sharing calls us to go one step deeper, and talk about the soil in which all those other conversations are rooted.
Photo: “Small Group Prayer by j.miner, on Flickr