I finally wrangled Hubs to do a guest spot for me. This particular post comes as a result of a discussion he and I have been having of late in reference to a couple of Nancy’s recent discussions on her blog, Spirit Lights the Way. See here, and here.
Here he offers his own perspective on the whole faith issue, and the idea of living one’s faith as example rather than forcing one’s own beliefs down another’s throat. There are many points of view in that discussions. Here is one of them: (Thanks, Hubs!)
From my earliest childhood my brothers and I were taught to think for ourselves and to come to our own understanding of truth. We were strongly urged to pursue an education which meant to seek for truth in whatever way we chose in whatever school and in whatever field we chose. For generations in our family there has been a pursuit of truth and education, not only a formal education but learning as a lifetime pursuit. We were encouraged to make our own choices and to be able to carefully think through our choices and to accept the consequences of our choices.
We were urged to choose educational institutions of higher learning where we would be exposed to a broad spectrum of fields of learning in the liberal arts tradition at the college level before we chose a profession and then to pursue professional training at the graduate level. Our parents provided those opportunities at great personal sacrifice and my brothers and I also worked at jobs to help pay for our educations as well as to seek scholarships and be responsible for repaying our loans.
We were raised in the tradition of our denomination whose founder repeatedly taught that we are first of all to think, and then to let think. Within our denomination are views that run the full spectrum from ultra-conservatism to extreme liberalism. Our founder taught that we are to know scripture because we are a “people of the Book”, and we are to be a people who rely on reason, personal experience, and on tradition that has stood the test of time. All four are to inform each of the others and to be kept in balance. We did not have the teaching of our church crammed down out throats. Again we were taught to study the scriptures and to be informed from them and to see the scriptures as containing truth, but also to understand them in the context of the times and circumstances in which they were written and the message the author(s) believed they were given to present to those who needed to hear them. We were urged to look at the broad sweep of the unfolding of God’s truth throughout the thousands of years during which the revelations of God’s truth were made in scriptures, to see the Truth that God has sought to reveal to the human race so that we can truly be those whom God created us to be. The ultimate revelation was in the person and actions and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God( Truth) in its purest human form, the embodiment of God’s Love.
I chose to devote my life to Christ at the age of 12, but have spent my life since them trying to live out his teachings and to live by his example. At the age of 16 I was sure that I was called to spend my life teaching others about Jesus Christ and living out his teachings in order to invite others to come to know him as well. As a result I pursued an education at very fine institutions of higher learning, a seminary which allowed me to make my own choices of courses to fulfill the basic requirements for graduation, but also to equip me to live a life in which I never stopped learning, questioning, growing, thinking on my own. I was richly endowed with an education that taught me how to learn and keep learning, not to fear challenge, but to embrace it and grow from it and with it.The last degree I worked for was at Yale University, but my education and pursuit of knowledge hopefully will never cease until my last breath.
I happen to be the sixth generation in a line in my family to receive what I believe was a leading from God to become a minister of the Gospel. At first there was a sense of obligation perhaps, but then it became clear to me that I was following a path quite unique to me as it has been for the five generations of clergy before me in my family. I chose then and I choose now to serve Christ by serving others, to seek to embody the unconditional love and acceptance I have experienced from God. That experience has come primarily from what I’ve seen of that love lived authentically in the lives of those who truly seek to live the life and truth embodied in Jesus the Christ. Never have I been directed by human institution nor, I believe, by God to force my beliefs on anyone. I am compelled by my experience and knowledge to let others see in me and hear in my words and actions an example of one who seeks to live the way Jesus taught us to live. This has arisen out of an unfolding and growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is offered to whomever wants to enter into their own relationship with him on their own terms. After over 50 years since I made that decision to become a minister of the Gospel of Christ I realize the more I know of truth the more truth there is to learn and that I do not have a corner on the truth, nor does anyone else. I have learned that God’s grace, love, justice,and forgiveness are far broader and deeper than anything I can fathom. Judgment in all respects belongs ultimately to God, not to me or any other human being.
Every person on the face of the earth is precious to God and God loves each one unconditionally. There are indeed many paths toward entering a relationship with God. The path I have chosen is to follow the person and teachings of Jesus Christ who I believe most completely is the truth God has been trying to reveal to the human race since the beginning of human existence about how to get along with each other, how to treat one another in a way that brings harmony, peace, and love. God also gave us the freedom to decide yea or nay, whether or not to accept that truth for ourselves.
My calling in life is to live that truth as best I understand it and to teach it to those who wish to listen to accept or reject as they choose.
The deep joy and peace that is beyond my human comprehension I experience despite the circumstance of my life is something I want to share with others in hopes they, too may experience the same. That is something that no one can pass on to another. It can only be discovered and known on one’s own. I do strongly believe that one of the very best ways to experience that joy and peace is in the context of a fellowship of those who are growing in their relationship with God. That fellowship is made up always of flawed people who will imperfectly embody the truths we seek to live. The healthy fellowship will be one in which the truth is spoken in love, forgiveness is readily given, love is unconditional, judgment of another is withheld, encouragement is rampant, support is forever given. service to those in need is freely given, and generosity knows no bounds.
That kind of fellowship is found most readily within small groups, and those groups can be found in a myriad of different configurations and associations. Paul uses the imagery of the functioning of a human body to describe the importance of that inter-relationship in his letters to the first-century churches in Rome and Corinth. Like the human body, the individuals and groups within a fellowship of followers of Jesus Christ,however large or small, is healthy and harmonious if they operate with a conviction of unity within its diversity. This is the way the Body of Christ is designed to function and can when the individuals follow the one who is truly the head of that Body, Jesus Christ. When that is lost sight of, the body becomes ill and dysfunctional. That is what the world sees rather than the unity and harmony which does occur.
This I believe,
Ashley M. Calhoun
(As a quick side note: Ashley holds degrees from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, Drew University Theological Seminary, in Madison, NJ, and has pursued further graduate studies at Yale University, in New Haven, CT.)
Thank you, Hubs, for sharing with me and my Gentle Readers. I know some will agree and some won’t. That’s the way the world is, and we are all the better for it, as long as we respect one another. I invite discussion – all points of view, respectfully given, are welcome!
I continue to wish for you all the abundance of enough. . .