I guess I feel like the political right has co-opted the concepts of God and Faith so much that it’s almost embarrassing for a left-wing, liberal such as myself to admit to even having an interest in the possibilities of faith.
A few months ago, the nonprofit organization that I work for held a massive national conference and, while there, I attended an interfaith session exploring the intersection between one's faith and service to others.
The session began with an interfaith prayer breakfast and representatives from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian traditions shared traditional prayers and their meanings with the group.
I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious household, but I found this prayer breakfast moving.
Perhaps the inclusive nature of the session and the diversity of religious traditions participating made me feel more open on this particular morning.
The speaker representing the Christian faith said that he felt called to serve others from the time he was fourteen, but did not realize or believe that his calling came from God until later in his life.
Suddenly, an old memory came to me.
I remembered begging to go to vacation bible school with my friend Tomi at her Southern Baptist Church.
[From my point of view, vacation bible school seemed to be about crafts and candy.]Tomi and I couldn’t have been more than eight that summer.
We were in the classroom in the church basement making bible verse wall hangings out of felt when the teacher asked us to come out into the hall with her one at a time.
I did as she asked.
Though I didn’t understand what I was doing at the time, the memory of it has never faded.
I remembered being terrified.
My focus and attention shifted back to the breakfast speaker as he began reading a prayer written by William Barclay.
Equip me today, O God, with the humility which will keep me from pride and from conceit;The graciousness and the gentleness which will make me both easy to live with and the joy to meet;
The diligence, the perseverance, and the reliability which will make me a good workman;The kindness which will give me a quick eye to see what I can do for others, and a ready hand to do it;
The constant awareness of your presence, which will make me do everything as unto you.
So grant that to me today, so that people may see in me a glimpse of the life of my blessed Lord.
I liked this prayer asking for the strength to persevere in doing good, and sitting there, I thought about my career.
I work in nonprofit, specifically to increase the number of people who volunteer.
What struck me about his talk was the way he openly discussed how difficult it could be to both feel and answer that call.
“Why is it that when you witness suffering you feel compelled to do something but others can simply walk on by? It isn’t fair. It's a burden. It's hard,” he said.
That was the first time I had heard anyone give voice to how I sometimes felt about my work.
It is often hard.
At the prayer breakfast, the Christian speaker closed with a quote from one of my heroes, Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through him who loved us.
What if..., I wondered.
What if all those years ago, when the Baptist Bible school teacher made me ask God to "come into my heart," what if something really happened?
What if my career choices have been faith driven but I'm too dense to get it?
What if God IS love… …and tolerance… and peace… and hope… and everyone really is welcome…
What if Granny is trying to tell me something right now?
For a moment, it felt like an epiphany…
...but then I felt like a complete and utter FREAK, so I shoved it all deep down into that dark church basement and decided to think about it later.