I bought this computer seven years ago, and about a year or two ago it started to fade on me. It was getting buggy and slow, and the battery life was terrible. So I installed a new battery, expanded the RAM, and put in a bigger hard drive. It’s been working pretty well since then, and I was happy to have a perfectly good computer again for a small fraction of what I would have paid if I’d have bought a new one.
It was also pretty satisfying. I had to do a little research to figure out how to install the new hardware, and I was reminded of how many people there are out there who are really interested in rolling up their sleeves, getting under the hood and figuring out how things work. On one do-it-yourself website, someone showed concern about voiding their warranty by working on their computer. In response, someone posted, “If you can’t take it apart then it isn’t really yours.” I thought that this person had a point. It’s good to understand how the things that we rely on work. And it’s good to be an active creator rather than just a passive consumer. It gives us a sense of real ownership, and it feels good too. Anyone who’s ever baked or built, found or fixed something they could have bought knows the satisfaction of using creativity rather than cash. The other thing that struck me about this experience was that I wasn’t really doing it alone. Once you’ve figured something out it’s natural to want to share that knowledge and if there is a puzzle you’re trying to solve, chances are there is someone out there who will be more than happy to share their solution. In fact, sharing what you’ve learned is almost as much fun as learning it in the first place. In fact, there are maker spaces around the country where people get together to work on their projects, sometimes solo and sometimes together, with shared tools and space in a supportive community.
The point, if you haven’t guessed, is that this is a great analogy for our liberal faith. Rather than offering answers, we support you in figuring out your own. Rather than fixing things, we share tools and what we’ve learned about how to use them. We work on ourselves, together. But there is a downside to this. It’s harder. This approach takes more work. When we take responsibility for our own belief systems, it’s essential that we take on the responsibility of being self-motivated because if we don’t we’ll find that rather than having a ready-made set of doctrines and beliefs we have nothing at all. I believe that a deep, personal and well-thought-out philosophy of life is better than a faith that’s pre-made and just accepted as a whole, but a pre-made model is much better than nothing at all – which is what you get if you just reject the ready-made answers and don’t come up with your own.
So is it time for a tune-up in your spiritual life? Have you taken your beliefs straight off the shelf and used them on the default settings without really understanding the options? Have you been trying to build your own philosophy from scratch without any help and found that you’re not really getting anywhere? Did you throw away the faith you grew up with because it didn’t work anymore, without stopping to think about trying to fix it? Even if you’ve built a really great custom world view, it might be time for an update. My advice? First, test out what you’ve got. Is it meeting your needs? Could it use a little update or is it time for an overhaul? This process is never done, so there’s going to be an opportunity for improvement somewhere. Next, see what’s out there. Go back to scripture and poetry and music and spiritual practices that have been inspiring to you in the past, and seek out new sources of inspiration too. Finally, share the project. Bounce your ideas off people who are good listeners. Find people you respect and ask them questions. Don’t overlook your minister (I love talking about this stuff). And use our fellowship as your shop. Sunday services, religious exploration classes, small groups, and casual conversations are all resources that we share here in our spiritual maker space. Just think of what you might be able to build here in our DIY sanctuary!