When I began the Native Spirit Journey Youth I thought a lot of what they had to know about a faith journey. It began with baptism.
“I don’t understand,” says the young girl who has asked to be baptized.
We are going through the Book of Common Prayer and it is full of words and concepts. So I put it down.
“There are only two things you have to know,” I say. “You are a child of God, loved for who you are regardless of how you mess up. And you can change—you always have choices.”
“You say I am a child of God,” she says. “Are you sure about that? How do you know that? Is it for real?”
I realized that this concept is really basic to everything so I began teaching four interconnected concepts through scripture, prayer, and current issues. It worked.
All of the blogs I wrote under the category of Basic Understandings revolve around these four concepts that are really one: you have a relationship with that which is eternal and knows you by name. That is a statement of faith that is known only by experience and has to be rearticulated over and over.
1st: Whatever is given to you, even the most horrible situation, can be related to as good.
“How can you even suggest that there is something good about this?” says a young boy who experiences physical abuse at home constantly when the adults get drunk.”
“I don’t mean good as likable,” I say. “I mean good as in wholeness. If you can accept what happens to you as a part of the whole of your life, you can see more than the superficial. You can learn from it. And it doesn’t turn you bitter. You look at the world for good things, not things that destroy you. And you don’t have to carve off those pieces of the world that you don’t like. You don’t know how all of your experiences give you your insight and your character.”
After some more discussion he says, “I know what you mean. I hate being fearful all the time.”Y
2nd: Whatever has happened in the past, you have a choice on how you are going to relate to it—as a chain holding you back or as substance from which you discover about yourself.
“I’m so messed up,” a teen says when I pick him up from the probation office. “Everyone looks at me like I’m going to do something wrong because I usually do. No one trusts me.”
“Your past is past,” I respond. “It can only stop you if you let it.”
He says, “I guess if I move away and get a job somewhere else, no one will know me.
“You will know yourself,” I say. “You can’t run away from yourself. Somehow you have to accept who you are before you can move beyond it.”
3rd: Your future is open. You can change. You can choose another way.
“I can’t change,” a young man says. “I’ve tried and I just slip back into what I always do. I will need a miracle for something new to happen.”
Another youth answers, “You are the miracle. You have changed so much since I first saw you. You actually care what happens to you. And I’ve seen you care for homeless people with amazing kindness. You change all the time.”
4th: You are cherished for who you are.
This is the core. It is the foundational belief that makes sense of your accepting the given as good, the past as complete and the future as open.
“You are a child of God” is a metaphor that holds the meaning of being loved. If you have not experienced this as a child from loving relatives, it is almost impossible to acquire this belief later in years. Yet it happens.
For some of us we experience it with the unconditional love of a puppy, or first love, or even the total trust of our best friend.
However it comes, there is no spiritual journey without this understanding of your being treasured.
I return to the original conversation with the young girl who wants to know if God really loves her by name.
“Have you ever felt that you are whole; that all the fragments of your life have come together and you are on the top of the world?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says. “When I got a bunch of Christmas gifts from people in the Church, I remember opening up one Christmas ornament that was a beautiful lacy angel in different colors. It was like me or who I would like to be. I just felt like I was really special.
So it happens. It is not my instructions. It is something called grace that happens when we least expect it.
Something happens and we discover that our past is no longer a burden, that our choices are no longer blocked, that our daily world opens up in beauty and we are comfortable and enlivened by who we are.
Grace is not explainable. It just happens.