Baby Steps (in Faith)
A reflection by Derik Moore, St. Paul's Parishioner
I came to St. Paul’s reluctantly, after spending all of my life in the Roman Catholic church. My wife Beth was really the driving force to find something new, something that matched the value system open-mindedness that we are trying establish in our home. To me, any move was going to be just another backdrop, different cast, modified script. If she and the kids were happy, that was enough for me. I wasn’t really looking for anything because, frankly, I had kind of given up on the idea that there was something to find.
And then, one seemingly innocuous conversation at a time, I wasn’t just coming to church, I was engaged. I wasn’t an extra in the play, I had lines. It really kind of snuck up on me. I’ve met enough people here to know that on a macro level, that story isn’t new or unique. In fact, Jim Miorelli wrote a wonderful piece about something very similar just last week.
So with that in mind, when Noah encouraged me to share my story as part of the St. Paul’s 101 series, I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d say, and wondered if and why anyone would want to listen. How on earth is my story special enough compared to other stories I’ve heard, both publicly and privately since we started coming here? After overthinking it for a few weeks as I have a tendency to do, I think I’ve landed on the belief that if we all said that, St. Paul’s spiritual growth engine would stall. Our willingness to, hold your breath, evangelize in our own unique way is what will eventually take another skeptical newcomer from extra, to bit part, to assistant director in their own faith story.
It wouldn’t be possible for me to list every conversation, event, or random smile that’s impacted my faith journey. First off, I’d forget to mention someone and feel badly. Next, this would end up being several pages long. And last, I need this to be at least a little bit of a teaser so at least one or two people actually show up next week! The common thread to nearly every memory that took me from being dragged to St. Paul’s to telling my story, is that in a vacuum, none of them seem all that special. For most of my life I assumed, and candidly, wished that I would have a lightning bolt moment to tell me that faith is real, Jesus is here, and that it’s time for me to get to work. What I got instead was the smiling face of a pediatric nurse that had taken care of our son Will when he was a baby. A priest who encouraged me to embrace my skepticism, assuring me that challenging one’s faith is not only okay, but necessary for growth. A men’s group that without really trying has helped me re-establish what it means to be a husband and father. A daughter, Olivia, who can’t stop talking about her confirmation retreat. The simplest of things, like someone saying, clearly very earnestly ‘it’s great to see you, I’m glad you made it’ on Sunday morning, feels like something more. The list goes on, for a while actually. But not a lightning bolt to be found, at least not the one I waited for most of my life.
The reality is that these types of things have been happening throughout my life, and I’m guessing most of yours, long before stepping foot inside of St. Paul’s. What’s changed for me is that I don’t believe they are random or coincidental in nature anymore. My hope is that sharing the memories that collectively have changed my mindset will encourage one person who has been on the sidelines to get in the game, to engage someone at coffee hour instead of taking their curiosity home, to join a group they’re curious about, or to invite a friend to St. Paul’s. Or maybe it won’t do any of that, but my going through the process of thinking, writing, and talking about the past couple of years will be just another stepping stone for me. Either way, I’m excited about the outcome.