When we consider how we evolve over the course of our lives, we usually think in terms of the different stages in life that people go through. One thing that normally doesn’t come to mind is our spiritual evolution. Yet, as I think about my own life, my spiritual evolution is very closely tied to all the stages of life I have gone through.
My favorite interviewer and radio personality, Krista Tippet, starts all of her interviews with one simple question: “Tell me about the spiritual background of your childhood.” Inside this question, is the implied evolution of one’s spirit, the truth that our spiritual life undergoes the same kind of evolution as our physical and mental states do. In 1 Corinthians 11:15, Paul reminds us: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
I grew up in a family with a very strong religious identity. I took on faith in God as being a natural part of who I was and it was deeply embedded in me from an early age. It wasn’t until I was an adult and going through a painful time in my life which triggered a serious spiritual crisis that I began to question God’s goodness and love. My childhood faith no longer fit what was happening in my life, and I had to either evolve spiritually or lose my faith all together. I was very blessed to have been surrounded by a loving pastor and church community who helped me deal with my deep questions and evolve my relationship with God. I realized that although my faith was turned upside down and didn’t make sense to me, God was always with me, guiding me and not letting go of me even though I thought about letting go of God.
This spiritual journey was a difficult one, but it changed and evolved my faith and my spiritual life forever. My understanding of who God is and how I can relate to God even in the darkest moments of life is very different from my childhood understanding. It is rooted in my own struggle for spiritual evolution and it deepened and changed my relationship with God in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. I am very grateful for that.
I also want to address the difference between childhood faith and child-like faith. I believe that they both have value in different ways. If you grew up in a church like I did, your childhood faith formed the basis of your future spiritual evolution, even if you had to re-examine your faith later in adulthood, like I did.
As adults, we have a lot to learn from what Jesus calls child-like faith: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Children are naturally open to the wonder of the world and are not afraid to ask questions. Maybe because they are small and vulnerable, they also don’t fight vulnerability like adults do. They take things by faith and let go of power and the need to be in charge much more easily. They notice God in the everyday bird, flower or animal. A child-like faith is the kind of faith that allows for the holy and sacred to come in and transform the person’s life. It is also the kind of faith that leaves very little room for ego and self-conceit, but is open to the wondrous and transforming love of God.
So, in the words of Krista Tippet, let me ask you: What was the spiritual basis of your childhood? Where do you find yourself now? What stories can you tell about God and God’s love as you think about your spiritual journey?