Currently, we are doing a sermon series through James Fowler’s Stages of Faith on Sunday mornings. I have the task of preaching-teaching on Stage 5 – Conjunctive Faith. Only a tiny percentage of the population reaches this Conjunctive Faith, mostly because it requires such an intense and sustained look at the “self” and soul.
The deep examination of the inner self is a frightening act. Its difficult to be both honest and gracious with ourselves. We tend to either minimize or maximize our frailty. We also tend to either minimize or maximize our greatness. What we find in ourselves scares us — for inside the soul we find God has truly shared divinity with us, that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined, that we can change the world. But we also find our shadow selves – the nasty, horrific thoughts, attitudes, prejudices and desires that we want to believe are not part of our “true” identities.
Stage 5 is the place where we come to accept all of it without scandal and without cynicism. We continue to recognize the importance of intellect and ego, but we do not allow intellect and ego to trump intuition, mystery, and the unknown. The ego is put in check – an extremely difficult act, a terrifying adventure to embark upon. But embark one must to finally arrive at stability and serenity with the world.