When we are struggling with something in the Christian life, we have to go deeper. If we opt out of the Christian life, we will not return to how we were, a vestige of knowledge – of the consciousness of something, of God, broadly speaking – will be left with us and we will not fit back where we were, ever. There is no going back, so the only way is forward. This is like a lot of things in life. Once you are in Year 10 there is no going back. The only way is forward toward the HSC. Once you have a child there is no going back, the only way is forward. Even if you give the child up for adoption, you cannot be the same as you were or fit back into your past. You carry a vestige of the new touch

This is like a lot of things in life. Once you are in Year 10 there is no going back. The only way is forward toward the HSC. Once you have a child there is no going back, the only way is forward. Even if you give the child up for adoption, you cannot be the same as you were or fit back into your past. You carry a vestige of the new touch on your life left by your child. Same if you have an abortion and you do not feel particularly bad or guilty about it, as your judges would wish you to. At minimum, a vestigial feeling carried over at least and does affect you. This is all obvious. But I mention it because people often do not make the connection when it comes to the things of faith.

The struggle might be in the family situation where you are the lone Christian among sceptics, cynics, and atheists– Or the lone Pentecostal Christian while the other family members are Catholic or Anglican etc. Or the struggle may be at work where “Christian” and “normal” seem not to fit together and you hardly dare mention it or do not really know how to operate as a person of faith in a non-Christian environment.

I am sure you can extrapolate your own situation from these comments. So the question is what to do?

Firstly in Christianity, traditionally one would have had what we might call a mentor, but that would have been called a Confessor or Spiritual Director. This sounds a bit daunting, but firstly it is true, and secondly it just means, basically, a conversation partner, so nothing to be daunted by really. If you are struggling – or even if you are not – tradition has it that you need someone you recognise as deeper in the faith than you “an old Christian” who you can talk to regularly. Sometimes this conversation can be kept up by correspondence.

Traditions developed in the first place to fill a purpose. Small Groups or smaller communities have an important place in church. But instead of just seeking membership in a small group we should also seek the kind of relationships that will cause us to think, ask questions and struggle well in a way that we would with a Christian conversation partner. A Spiritual Director or Teacher (as I think of it) is an absolute necessity. If you do not have one – at whatever stage of faith you count yourself – start to look.

Just one comment here: in the first instance, the Teacher you look for may be the card-carrying Christian type – or (dare I say this?) it may be someone who does not identify clearly as “Christian” in your terms at all, and I am saying that is OK. God does not check people’s Christian credentials; What I am saying is more to do with the heart. And more important than whether your “confessor” is Christian or not is whether they have a heart of gold or not. God will use them to talk to you if that is how you see them.

St. Augustine, the most important Christian writer for the Western church in the early fifth century who framed the way we in European languages approach the Old and New Testaments, said (summarising him): Some of the worst people I have ever met have been Christians and some of the best people I have ever heard of have been non-Christians. Of course, that is not how it is supposed to be. By this distinction, Augustine means the inner qualifications of the person – their humanity – and thereby their inner light – are what make them Christians, not outward insignia.

At a certain stage though, you will need a Christian conversation partner… More on that next week.