the book that changed my life

Friday, May 24, 2013

I have read books that have inspired me.  Books that have opened my heart, fired me up, helped me to see people instead of issues.  But right now I am reading a book that is changing my life.  It is the Book of Common Prayer.

We recently stepped out of a faith tradition that believes knowledge is the key to a healthy spiritual life.  Right thinking leads to right living, and spiritual growth occurs primarily through study.  Religious intellectualism is held in highest regard.  It is a heady, heavy way to approach God.

Some people thrive in it.  I know several happy, healthy believers who live their faith well inside this tradition.  There was a time when I did, too.  For a season I saw God and the world through their lens, and functioned happily within it. 

All was well until our lives unraveled, and I began to suffocate under the weight of knowledge.

What happens to a person's faith when their experience no longer fits within a particular grid?  Within an intellectual faith system, there is no freedom to openly doubt, or to trust an experience that cannot be proven.  Knowledge and intellectualism are one path to God, but knowledge was revered to the exclusion of other paths - such as the Sacraments, contemplation, or even relationships.  When I was no longer sure of what I knew intellectually, my response was to retreat, both from God and from fellow believers.  By the time we left it, I had shut down completely.  The nurturing comfort of a loving God like a song I used to know, but I couldn't quite remember the tune.

The Liturgy is like hearing the song again.

Liturgical worship is not dependent on my understanding.  It does not rely on what I can articulate or prove.  Nor does it rely on my emotions, which are as susceptible to the squirming preschooler beside me as they are to the almighty presence of God.  Liturgical worship affirms that the same things that were true about God thousands of years ago remain true today.  There is a mystery and a vastness to faith that we are foolish to try to dissect, but can trust completely.  For the past couple of years I doubted what I knew, and I felt almost nothing - yet there was a deep hunger for God's loving presence that compelled me to continue to look for Him.  Liturgical worship recognizes that hunger as its own form of holiness.  We read Scripture, offer our confessions to God, give peace to one another.  We pray for each other, then accept Christ's sacrifice in ourselves through the Eucharist.  For thousands of years believers all over the world have recognized and worshipped God this way.  Rather than depending on what I know, can prove, or feel, each week I simply step in to the reality of the mystery of faith:  Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.  My only personal task is to remain open to Him.

Through the Liturgy, each week I am healed, little by little.  It took a long time for me to become as spiritually and emotionally ill as I was, and it will take a long time to be strong again.  But it is happening, slowly, thoroughly, consistently.  Thanks to God's loving kindness and the Book of Common Prayer.


  1. Such beauty and truth in the prayers. The name itself is so descriptive, the Book of COMMON Prayer, the sense of being one is a concept I appreciate.

  2. I can really relate to this. I realized, this week, that despite reading my Bible every morning, I am not longer a "Bible Study Girl." I enjoy the knowledge, but I'm at a place where I'm a bit burned out on all the study. I'm tired.

  3. Wonderfully descriptive of the reality of our faith and the Mystery that the liturgy allows us to enter into. Loved it!

  4. Stephanie, thank you! I look forward to learning and worshiping alongside your family. Annie

  5. Bookmarking this to mention in an upcoming post of mine. I am just starting to dabble in liturgy, and yes, I find it healing.

  6. Stephanie - I read your post about being brave (so proud of you and excited to cheer you on in that) and have been poking around here since then - I love your writing. This post in particular really resonated with me, as I went through a similar season and felt so small and lonely in that time.

    Would love to talk more in person sometime about faith, kids, writing - I admire you and the way you're stepping out in grace.



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