I dare to say that most of us have experienced the feeling of being rudderless and tossed about by the currents of life. Perhaps it is by a family problem that never quite seems to resolve itself. Or perhaps you are like me and continually wonder about what has happened to the moral compass of our country. According to a recent Pew Foundation study, a growing number of adults (23%) in our nation are religiously unaffiliated. Among demographic experts, they are increasingly known as nones. The trend is even worse among young people, as only about half of Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) say they believe in God with absolute certainty.
Now naturally, all of this causes us to wonder. In the history of mankind, are we the first to encounter such a time? Are we the first to feel abandoned as though we have been left for dead? Of course not! For throughout salvation history, God has provided us opportunities to enter into new ways of living.
In the movie, Parenthood, a grandmother (and mother) makes a powerful declaration to her son who is encountering the challenges of life:
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Son: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.
In thinking about this wisdom, I wonder if this is also the way God operates. As we encounter the world with all its temptations, there is a great possibility that we might turn our backs to God in favor of fame or riches or you name it. But in turning our backs to God, the reality is that he never turns his back to us! Rather, he continues to approach us daily and then backs off and provides us with space—so that we might approach him freely. In doing so, God reveals to us his utmost desire: That we enter into relationship with him!
Throughout human history, the lives of the saints provide us with warming examples of those who have entered into profound relationships with him. However, outside of those who have been declared saints of God, our God has just one bullpen to draw from. Yes, you and me!
It is though God has placed us on a roller coaster. On certain days, we feel his presence in a powerful way. And yet, on other days, it feels as though he has abandoned us. During such times, we call to him as though we are a child lost in a department store. We cry out: Where are you?
And so, perhaps THE question of questions is this: With respect to our relationship with God, where are we?
REVEREND MR. KURT GODFRYD is editor of Catholic Journal and a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Married and the father of five children, Deacon Kurt was ordained to the diaconate on October 4, 2008 by His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida and is assigned to St. Clement of Rome parish in Romeo, Michigan. A native Detroiter, he was educated at the Jesuit-run University of Detroit Mercy, where he received a B.S. in finance, M.B.A., and M.A. in economics. His theological training was taken at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, where he earned an M.A. in pastoral ministry.