A new slant on becoming the 1%

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We asked Rev. Greg Farrand to tell us a bit about his personal spiritual evolution.  We were touched by what he shared.  It’s a new slant on becoming the 1%:

For many years of my spiritual journey, the word “evolve” and “Christianity” were completely and forever incompatible.  To “evolve” required change and, to me at least, that sounded like the beginnings of a theological slippery slope.  Perhaps my marriage could evolve or my role in an organization, but theologically speaking, my mission was to discover God’s unchanging and perfect truth.  In my quest for His absolute truth, I learned the original languages of the Bible, read innumerable books, wrote hundreds of papers, and drank (what had to be) a million cups of coffee and/or beer while hammering out my spiritual positions.  I thought of each theological question as a mystery to be solved and turned into a brick to build an immovable spiritual floor to stand on.  While never finishing the job, I felt I was well on my way towards completion when I graduated from seminary and was ordained as a pastor.

Over the years of pastoring, preaching, and leading in the church, I noticed signs that cracks were beginning to form in my carefully crafted theological construct.  When I was called into the funeral home to sit with parents of a child who died, my right answers seemed pitifully inadequate.  As I met with a couple on the verge of divorce and heard both the pain and sadness of their stories, my pre-wrapped responses would choke in my throat.  In fact, I started to notice that when I functioned out of my “right” theology, I did not love people well at all… I simply tried to convince them to believe right doctrine.  My “solid” theology did not seem to support the weight of the real world but what were my options?

Help and insight came through the wisdom of an older pastor I have come to consider one of my spiritual Jedi masters.  He asked me, “What percentage of the gospel (the good news) of Jesus do you truly understand?”  Being outwardly humble but inwardly arrogant I thought to myself, “Oh… about 90%… I can admit there is probably 10% out there still to discover.”  To my friend I simply said, “I’m not sure… a good bit I suppose.”  He then shared with me that he truly understands less than 5% of the gospel.  “What?”  I said.  “Are you kidding me?  You are a well-known pastor and world-traveling speaker!  How could you know less than 5%?”  He explained to me that over the years, His understanding of God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the gospel have expanded beyond what he ever thought possible.  He talked about God as infinite, and viewed the reality of his presence, nature, and work as a glorious mystery to embrace.  He waded into my life saying, “Greg, it’s like you have read dozens of biographies about a person but have never sat down to eat breakfast with them.  You know a lot about God… but I wonder how much you truly know Him.  Instead of viewing God as a puzzle to be solved, why don’t you surrender control and simply fall into his infinitely loving arms?”

This conversation took place many years ago but it altered the trajectory of my spiritual journey and set me on a course that embraces the infinite mystery we call Jesus. I have learned to enjoy God and rest in Him instead of trying to figure him out.  I have realized that God and his truth are infinite and any understanding or awareness I possess through my finite lenses will always be changing, growing, expanding, and altering.  Instead of trying to build an immovable theological construct I now open-handedly trust myself into the hands of God who will bring me home.  I have the freedom to simply love each person I meet in a day and leave any convincing that may or may not need to be done up to the Spirit.  The Spirit’s call to evolve then is not a slippery slope, but rather an invitation to surrender ourselves with complete trust into the hands of a God who passionately loves us.  I can happily say that I now know less than 1% of the gospel and the rest of my life will be the continued exploration, discovery, and evolving understanding of intimacy with my infinite God.

Photo courtesy of VanderVeen Photography

Greg is an ordained Presbyterian pastor and co-director of the non-profit Selah Spiritual Formation where he and his wife Beth offer one-on-one spiritual direction and lead  retreats.  He also serves as Minister of Youth at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.  Greg and his wife, Beth live in Greensboro, NC with their three sons.

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