There we were communing with a Starbucks “vente” Verona and veggie-egg sandwich. Birthday festivities past and anticipating my departure to Minneapolis today, we were riding the crest of a week’s worth of visiting. Years had taught us to seize the fleeting moment. Already well versed with the details of each other’s stories, we dispense with formalities and dive directly into murky waters – that place of confusion, challenge, diminishment, paradox, even loss. Such are the places “growing-up” will eventually drag all of us if we pay attention to living.
Wasn’t it supposed to be different? Parents, police officers and priests all seemed to be certain and all-knowing when we were kids. God’s law was revealed, clear, unequivocal! Or, at least that’s what we needed/wanted to believe. But, now… the realm of questions, doubt, faith, probing, un-knowing – a strange and awkward place we discover within our “mature” years flirting with elder-status. In true brotherly fashion, Fred and I railed that it should be otherwise but eventually yielded to the grace of the moment.
We all have our super-heroes, mentors, giants! It is easy for me to idolize Oscar Romero for his outspoken proclamation of the Gospel in the face of injustice. It is equally convenient to ignore the price he paid. Universal acclamation attests to the sanctity of Mother Teresa. Yet, publication of the private writings of this “Saint of Calcutta” revealed one who struggled with doubt, desolation and chilling uncertainty. Didn’t Dorothy Day describe her work with the poor as a “terrible beauty”? How did they get to be our heroes and saints?
Today on the flight back to snow country I found myself recalling a seminary course, “Stages of Faith Development” from twenty-five years ago. Sharon Daloz Parks led us through the pioneering and incisive work of James Fowler, popularized by M Scott Peck and others, who charted life-long developmental hurdles we must navigate in coming to “maturity” or elder status. Seems there are common, predictable and sequential stages we all traverse if we are ever to come to what Paul proclaimed as our “full stature” in Christ. Many turn back or choose to hunker down and stay-put. The road to Emmaus suggests Paul did not but knows of what he speaks!
John’s gospel recounts Jesus’ sobering post-Resurrection admonition to Peter that when he is old another will tie a belt around his waist and take him to a place he would rather not go. Drs. Parks and Fowler, Archbishop Romero, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, those we call giants or saints — any who have shown us the full cost of love — present a consistent trajectory. Why should our lives to be any different?
Fred and I are still wrestling and railing with our propensity to create God in our own image, a Gospel to our own liking.
A cogent summary of James Fowler’s pioneering work is available online. Click [here]. A Google search for “Sharon Daloz Parks Stages of Faith Development” yields interesting results, especially with regard to faith development in young adults.
I love the poetic thrill of your first graph, Richard, and the underlying theme of how we seek out those theorists and theologians who support our personal vision of God – or at least models of how we wish to live our best lives. Who were Fred’s giants? And could you hear each other and affirm the choices through acceptance of each other? One of the greatest gifts we give and receive in relationships – with others, and most certainly with God – is seeing and being seen.