It is a highlight; a major event in one’s life; a moment we can look back on as the start of our faith; or a day when we can say our faith came to renewal. It may be a ceremony, such as baptism or confirmation, marking the start of a new depth, a new commitment of faith. Days we can look back to, remember and mark as times of importance; dates we can celebrate and remember each year, as they help us to continue on. Important times, which it is helpful to remember and which can be crucial to our faith. Yet the days and hours and minutes in the ordinary times of our life are important as well. Significant as these specific times are, the ordinary days in which we are living out our faith in the normal day to day routines are just as vital. For it is in the day to day that our faith is lived out, that it is put into practice, that it grows by steps rather than by leaps and bounds. Often, it is the gradual growth that proves lasting, it is in those times when we can put down deep roots that anchors us more securely to our God.
In those highlighted moments, we are often faced with a choice, a decision to make: for God or not for God? It is a choice we are aware of, one we may think through, a choice that is clearly seen. Yet in the every day, there are choices to be made also, but sometimes choices that are not so obvious, choices that we may or may not see as choices of faith. Often choices that we do not see as choices at all, responding as we do in the moment. We don’t always have time to think through a given action, an option of how to react. Yet, in each of these we are still responding to that choice: are we going along God’s path, or are we following our own? Each response, each choice leads us further along the path of our own kingdom or God’s kingdom. It can be those important moments, those ‘once-for-all’ decisions that influence those every day choices; it can also be those minute choices that lead us further into later choices, and feed into those more monumental decisions.
How do we respond to that person that irritates us? the noisy neighbour? the car that splashes us every time it rains? the person at church who talks throughout the entire service? How do we respond when we’re tired, and we have yet one more demand made on us? when we sleep badly because people because people are yelling outside? when the vicar preaches a sermon that we totally disagree with? when the council – church or state – want to make major changes that threaten everything we hold dear? How do we choose when we meet someone in the street, when we pass someone in distress, when the rector preaches a bad sermon because they’re far too busy? How do we choose in church, when we can focus and pray or drift off? How do we choose when faced with those reminders of God’s overwhelming love for us, which we may or may not be able to handle? How do we fill those empty spaces inside – with God or with something numbing?
There is often no right or wrong answer: is the noisy neighbour someone to be put up with, or do we need action to change the situation? So much depends on the circumstances. It would be so much easier if each of these examples held only one ‘Godly’ response, that we could know what we needed to do. But it isn’t that simple. Each situation may have several responses, and some or even all of them may be ‘for God’. It is more that in each moment, each second, of every day we will have that choice – are we following God or following ourselves? In each minute, we will have the option of deepening our faith and our following – or of not doing.
We will not always make the appropriate choice; we will often choose ourselves over God, and sometimes we will respond in ways that, in retrospect, are completely not of God. Yet that realisation, that knowledge of error, is also a time when we can choose God or ourselves: do we offer ourselves to God’s mercy, or do we hide in guilty shame? The choice may not be an either/or, as I am presenting it here. It can be both/and: we may need to make our way through the guilt to a deeper knowledge of God’s mercy, and sometimes those moments, those choices will not be clearly ‘God or self’. Sometimes, what we want for ourselves may be the Godly path. I think what I am trying to get at is that in each moment of our day there is a calling from God, from the Holy Spirit, to deepen our orientation towards God, which we can follow or ignore or reject. Each moment, each response, will deepen our faith – or not; will make that choice ‘for God’ easier – or not. Often that calling may not be one we are aware of; yet there are times in each day when we can open ourselves more deeply, more knowingly, to God, that will make the choice for God more likely – even in those times when we have drifted. What those deeper times look like will depend on individual circumstances. But each minute, each second, when we respond to God’s calling in that instant with a ‘yes’ will shape our lives more and more for God, in God’s way of living; and each choice that we make in those instances will also affect those around us, and their own response to the calling of God.