"The church is going to emerge from this -
whenever the church gets pressure it turns out better."
Pastor Mike Woods on WXOW News 19
Yup – I said this on camera last week on a television interview. The intention of my sound-bite was to convey a message of comfort, a sort of, God has ahold of us in these times. And – believe it or not – a pandemic is the soil that our faith can grow in.
Back in the 1980’s a seminary professor named John Westerhoff named his four requirements for developing our spiritual lives, four things that are necessary to live in an ever-deepening and loving relationship with God. I heard him give a lecture on this entitled: How to have a soul.
The first requirement for having a soul is a willingness to embrace suffering; our own and the world’s. Through social distancing we are experiencing everything from mere inconvenience to loss of income and uncertain futures. In response to this disruption we are comforting one another, checking on the vulnerable among us and some are even putting themselves at risk of catching the virus as they work for the common good of all of us.
The second requirement for having a soul are lives marked by moments of silence and solitude. All of a sudden we find that we have time. The hustle and bustle of life has subsided and there is time for contemplation and wonder, time to wrestle with questions, time to breathe. We can listen deeply and compassionately when not in a hurry.
Poet Mick Jagger named the third requirement for a deepening spiritual life when he sang: “I can’t get no … satisfaction.” Truth be told - our soul is fed by a sense of dissatisfaction, an uneasiness with the status quo. St. Augustine put it this way: “Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee.” Humans tend to gravitate toward routine and comfort so when life gets stirred up it is an opportune time for deepening and new growth.
The final requirement for growing our spiritual life is to live in a community that sees in us the image of Christ. During this pandemic we are uncovering the richness of our faith community as we perceive it outside of just gathering for worship. As we miss our gatherings it is a pleasant surprise to discover how important seeing our pew neighbors is to us and the strength we gain by belonging to our faith communities.
And so, we go
into the pandemic places
with the protection of God
who meets us there.