A Believer's To-Be List

Steps to a fresh start with God

When I turned 50, I had a complete physical checkup. Doctors poked, prodded, x-rayed, and even cut open parts of my body to assess and repair the damage I had done. At the same time, I scheduled a spiritual checkup, too. I went on a silent retreat led by a wise spiritual director.

In those days of solitude, I pondered what I needed to change to keep my soul in shape. The more I listened, the longer grew the list. Here is a mere sampling, a portion of a spiritual action plan for my next 50 years.

Question your doubts as much as your faith. By personality, or perhaps as a reaction to a fundamentalist past, I brood on doubts and experience faith in occasional flashes. Isn't it about time for me to reverse the pattern?

Do not attempt this journey alone. Like many Protestants, I easily assume the posture of one person alone with God, a stance that more and more I see as unbiblical. The Old Testament tells the story of the people of God; Jesus' parables unveil the kingdom; the epistles went primarily to communities of faith. We have little guidance on how to live as a follower alone because God never intended it.

Allow the good—natural beauty, your health, encouraging words—to penetrate as deeply as the bad. Why does it take about 17 encouraging letters from readers to overcome the effect of one that is caustic and critical? If I awoke every morning, and fell asleep each night, bathed in a sense of gratitude and not self-doubt, the in-between hours would doubtless take on a different cast.

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