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Asking the Clergy: Why does faith often deepen as we grow older?

The Bible’s Book of Job says that wisdom comes with age (12:12). For some, that wisdom inspires a return to worship services, or a renewal of religious beliefs that have guided their lives. This week’s clergy discuss how life experiences can lead to more meaningful spirituality.

Rabbi Leibel Baumgarten,

Chabad Lubavitch of the Hamptons

Let us assume that faith means belief and trust in God. It is something that transcends knowledge or intellect. It is beyond logic. When we are young we are physically stronger, we face the world with great ideals, we think we can do anything, we tend to be more egotistical and less connected to the spiritual world. As we go through life and make mistakes and fail and learn many lessons, hopefully, we become more humble, more willing to accept that we are not in total control. As singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen said so beautifully, “I realize I’m not running the show.” Humility is a key access point to faith. We become more willing to surrender to something greater than us. We have less ego invested in the results. We see family members and friends die, sometimes completely unexpectedly, and realize our mortality. We search for a purpose, a sense of meaning in our life. When we believe strongly in God, we know that we are here for a reason, that our life has a mission, something important to accomplish. This gives us a great sense of peace and calm. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to have moments of revelation or epiphany, clarity about a greater being. Traditionally, this occurs more commonly for a Jew in the holiest time of the year between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In this 10-day period of reflection and repentance, it is not uncommon to experience transformative moments of God’s closeness. The Hebrew word for faith is “emunah.” The Hebrew root of this word is the same as that for a tradesman or carpenter who must be trained in his craft. Faith is something that needs to be nurtured and developed over a lifetime.

The Rev. Karen Ann Campbell,

Christ Episcopal Church, Sag Harbor

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1) The best theologians I know are the very young and the very old. A theologian is one who thinks about God. This includes ordinary people who worship, read scripture and pray. They are theologians as they forge a personal relationship with God. I believe that both the young and the old have the time to move more slowly and notice more. Nancy Roth, who wrote a book about prayer, comments that “noticing is a way of praying.” Roth continues that washing dishes and dancing can be forms of prayer.  Rachel Carson said that (and I paraphrase) perhaps children notice more because they are closer to the ground. The same is true as we age and we are unburdened from our life’s work, allowing us more time to notice the birds, the stars, the grass and the praying mantis. 

All relationships need time. Our faith relationship is no different. We need to spend time with God. We need to have time to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit around us. As Christians, we need to spend time with the risen Christ, allowing Christ to show us the gift of resurrection occurring all around us. I do not recommend that individuals wait until they age to have a deep abiding friendship with God. Rather, do not delay, take some time today and notice God moving in your life and the lives of people around you.

Sister Anjani Seepersaud,

Coordinator of Global Harmony House, the Raja Yoga Mediation center of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, Great Neck

The first word that comes to my mind is experience. Experience in what I am studying and practice brings faith. This is the faith that leads me to victory over many negative situations. When I came to the Brahma Kumaris 34 years ago, I felt a deep sense of love and peace. I would not say that I had faith at that moment. As I listened to the knowledge shared by my senior teachers about who I am, who is God, my relationship with humanity and time, and applying this knowledge in my life, faith developed. The experience of discovering peace within has helped me to stop looking for peace outside of me. Living the lifestyle of a nun, as some of us choose to live, has the benefit of being able to serve humanity freely. In my experience of serving and seeing the transformation in the lives of so many, this also helps faith to deepen. I am now in my 50s, and a feeling of stability has emerged from my practice over the years that others start trusting and recognizing. I help them to understand that spiritual powers are necessary in today's world. They can also journey on the path to find their inner peace.  

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