March 19, 2020
When I talk to groups about spirituality, I sketch out a four-fold understanding of the concept. Spirituality is about deep, vital connection: connection to God, to creation, to others, and to our true selves (or our innermost selves). I usually draw this for the group: there is a vertical dimension of spirituality (connection to God), a horizontal and outward dimension (connection to others), a downward dimension (connection to creation), and an inward dimension (awareness of our true selves).
For many of us, some or all of these vital connections are at risk right now due to the ongoing and rapidly evolving situation related to the coronavirus. Many of us find ourselves isolated or self-quarantined because of threat of illness. We are cut off physically from our spiritual communities. And for many of us, our mental health is threatening our ability to connect with God and our innermost selves. We need be intentional in our approach to spirituality in these challenging times. Let me pose some questions and thoughts for reflection:
How are you connecting to God right now? It might not be in the usual ways, as our ability to worship in our churches is stymied. Can you slow down and take a few deep breaths, and allow yourself to sense the divine presence in your midst, even now? Where do you see God at work in the world right now? Can you sense God’s presence working through this process, in those who are caring for neighbors, in the ways we are choosing to sacrifice for the wellbeing of the most vulnerable among us? God is ever present, even now.
How are you connecting to others? For many of us (especially extroverts!) we are struggling because we are isolated at home and can’t visit public spaces. We are unable to physically encounter people, cannot hug or shake hands. Physical presence is integral to nourishing our vital connection to others.
We are finding that we have to be creative about this. And creative we are. The remarkable thing for my family is that in some ways, the vital connections we enjoy with others—close friends and family especially—are actually strengthening. I am talking more to my immediate family members on the phone than was typical before a week ago. We are video chatting with friends regularly, and have ongoing threads on Facebook Messenger with close friends. Social media, as always, has pros and cons—while I’m tempted to binge-read news stories, I find that positive posts from friends are incredibly encouraging.
Even my children are having to be creative in connecting with others: my 7-year-old son played Battleship through FaceTime yesterday with his friends! (Parents at home: you can print paper copies of Battleship from the internet, and it’s a great way to buy yourself 30 minutes or an hour of focused time!)
How are you connecting to creation? We are trying to get outside and go for walks every day. We went to the park two days ago and rode our bikes: it feels like a safe and public place to be right now. It was good for our souls, as well as our physical and mental.
Finally, how are you connecting to your true self? That self that normally isn’t so rattled and anxious, that isn’t frazzled from disrupted routines or non-stop parenting? Can you steal twenty minutes away (whether in the privacy of your room or on a walk), disconnect from technology, and meditate, enjoy a moment of mindfulness, or somehow get in touch with who you are at your core? This is where we connect most deeply with God, and where God’s image shines brightly outward into the world. It is still there—but we must be intentional in nourishing this awareness of our true selves.
Of course, all of these four dimensions of spirituality are interwoven with one another. Yesterday I sensed God’s presence while we were playing “fence charades” with friends. This was a creative attempt to spend quality time with our neighbors—we sat on opposite sides of the fence and played a game of charades with our children, and much hilarity and laugher ensued. It was good for my soul: and sure enough, in the midst of it, I could sense that God was at work, sustaining us, and drawing us together as friends in new and creative ways. Our relationship with these friends will be deeper as a result of this crisis. I can’t wait to give them big hugs when we are done with social distancing.
Blessings to you all. I know these days are hard, and they are trying us in many different ways. I hope you will take a few moments today and in the days ahead to tap into these four dimensions of spirituality, to keep yourself spiritually healthy, and to maintain these vital connections with God and others.