The sun is shining bright, and the sky is blue. The streets are empty and the shops mostly closed. The few people I saw on my bike ride were, like me, taking a walk or a bike ride, waving friendly hellos while maintaining social distance.
Sequestered again with the “work from home day over,” I hear my daughter teaching ballet virtually to youngsters in the other room. She is 17 and forgoing college this fall to pursue dance. If ever I doubted this passion, hearing her teach eliminated any doubts. She has a gift of purity of purpose and talent. She has to supply the discipline and hard work. And yet she knows there are no guarantees.
In my sanctuary within my home, I have several bibles, spiritual writings of church fathers, religious symbols, and candles. I light the candles when I purposefully set time aside to reflect, read, pray, and if the spirit moves me, write.
All the praying, reading, writing, and reflection are meaningless if I am not open to truly listening and seeking to understand how they apply to me when I leave this room. Richard Rohr writes, “All the stories of healing, transformation, awareness, and enlightenment that we find in the Bible come to people moving beyond the usual definitions of power (such as false power, temporary power, dominative power, or cultural power). He goes onto say that sacred text is not an end in themselves, but they must insert you into new and larger realities.
What is the true meaning of “trust in me” or “he who is first shall be last” as it relates to us right now in the reality of a pandemic? It can raise some fascinating questions when we go beyond the superficial verbal acceptance of scripture to its litmus test of how we face suffering and tragedy.
Scripture comforts us (trust in me) and challenge us (he who is first) with parables and contradictions that confound the best theologians. Some of them have been deemed heretics only later to be redeemed as more was revealed to humanity.
My daughter was all in next door, teaching a class via zoom. She is all in seeking to be a professional ballet dancer knowing the field is brutal and offers few opportunities. Some call it youth. I call it faith, not that she will make it, but that she is invited to take the journey. Ballet, like faith, gives us plenty of opportunities to come up short. It also offers young dancers plenty of opportunities to succeed in life, whether in performing arts or otherwise.
The path of faith is not about achieving sanctification or sainthood. The way is about living our calling and our destiny wherever that may lead us. Actively and consciously making small and large decisions in alignment with a discerning spiritual conscience can be both spiritually uplifting and spiritually demoralizing simultaneously. We do not know where the path will take us. Some holy people have demonstrated an ability to equally ride both uplifting graces and debilitating suffering with gratitude and humility as if they were the same.
They accept what comes to them unquestionably and toil to work with what they are given – bad or good. Today as a nation, we have plenty of suffering and struggle. It is easy to be faithful in good times, not so much in bad times.
St. Theresa of Lisieux went as far as to write, “It’s true that I wanted to suffer much for God’s sake, and it’s true that I still desire this.” Her suffering and seeking of suffering defy’s imagination.
How many of us are all in when it comes to faith? What does that look like alongside your secular career, community involvement, family life, or political orientation? There has to be alignment and clashes. We live in a secularly driven society with minor influences from multifaith communities and significant impacts from international political and economic drivers. Some of these forces, although perhaps well-meaning in the pursuit of progress or presence, can be hostile to our spiritual beliefs and values.
Our calling for most of us is a secular job, family chores and activities, community involvement, and other human relationships. These are our works of faith when carried out with the purity of purpose, talents developed, and hard work. Most of all, they are the most successful and meaningful when carried out as an act of spiritual practice and faith. As the dancer becomes one with the music and choreography, the worker becomes one with the spiritual grace bestowed on him and the task at hand.
This abstract jpeg above is available at the Wallpaper (thewallpaper.com) in the Abstract section. I am not a fan of modern abstract artwork. However, this one captures the thoughts I have been trying to convey.
A true work of Art is but a shadow of divine perfection in the background.
We are all artisans in our craft, whatever that is from the simple to the grandest. Our faith does not need to be on display. If it is in the background, it will show itself in the results, not as yours, but as something grander.
The churches are closed. Now, more than ever is a time to turn to the God of your understanding. Prepare a room, a corner, or a closet, and seek your spiritual self. It need not be complicated or lengthy. Simple, frequent, and genuine. Leave the rest to God.
Below is an idea for a war room for project management! What better project than reuniting with your soul during the quarantine. If you’re like me, cutting out 1/3 of the Co-Vid 19 news coverage will not hurt. Prayer, a simple conversation, a little reading, an openness to receive, and a little discipline to open the door to your heart. You need not go far.
Whether confronting suffering, loss, and death or dealing with the franticness of life, now is a good time to ground yourself in finding your spiritual self.