When we think of “faith,” we usually think of faith in terms of a particular religion and denomination. But with so many people adopting “spiritual but not religious” practices or having no religion at all, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that spirituality and faith can take both “wild” and “cultivated” forms.
The practice of spirituality and faith within the structure of a church – versus the practice of spirituality and faith on your own time – is analogous to the difference between a garden and the wilderness. Nature is fully present in both. A garden is usually a fairly safe place. There is structure, tidy rows for the occupants, and maybe even a fence for protection and an irrigation system for watering. People take care of the plants in their garden. These people might be good gardeners or not. They will likely make mistakes along the way, and disasters can happen. But usually, the plants grow and provide nourishment for other creatures.
In the wilderness, plants grow on their own. This could be a good thing. Lots of biodiversity exists in the wilderness. We may even find highly useful plants in the wilderness that will give us beauty, highly nutritious and organic food, or even life-saving drugs. Plants in the wilderness get their water from deep roots sunk into the underground aquafers or from the blessing of rain water. They are completely dependent on God and nature.
In this twenty-first century, American faith is both cultivated and wild. The “cultivated” faith of churches continues to serve as a vital part of the spiritual lives of many people. Cultivated faith serves as a (usually) safe place to learn, grow, and give to others. Gardeners in the form of clergy help to make sure everyone gets access to the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit. Many fruits of the spirit grow, thrive, and feed others.
But there exists another kind of faith that is a wild faith. This faith taps into ground water and the occasional rain showers, sprinkles, and thunderstorms of the Holy Spirit for fuel and inspiration. This type of faith is blown, bent, and shaped by the wind of the Holy Spirit as well. This wild faith can also produce nutritious fruits of the spirit, often growing in hidden coves, up on mountaintops, in deep woods, or even in swamps, deserts, or neglected urban parcels of land. But this faith, like the wilderness itself, is as much a part of nature as the gardens so dutifully tilled and fussed over.
Not all plants are suited to the structure of a garden. Not all plants are suited to the unpredictability and dangers of the wilderness. But all are nonetheless part of God’s creation.
This blog post is an edited excerpt from this book. Copyright 2019 Cynthia Coe. All Rights Reserved.