5 Spiritual Disciplines to Practice During Crisis
Jason Gaboury, current InterVarsity Regional Director for New York/New Jersey, recently shared some initial reflections on spiritual disciplines to practice during this pandemic. Jason shared these after having experienced three global crises in NYC since September 11th and recognized this current crisis is categorically different in many ways. Jason also expounds on his experience living in New York during these crises on the Ministry During the Disription Podcast, which you can listen to his episode here.
We are rapidly getting to the place where the 'numbers' of those infected, severe, critical, and deceased because of COVID-19 are becoming the faces of people we know and love. Our grief and anxiety are heightened by the inability to gather, the fear that there won't be enough, the inability to hold one another's hand, or even to perform the rites and rituals of grief.
Here are some initial reflections on spiritual disciplines for this season of crisis:
1. Pray your rage!
Rage is inescapable in the face of chaos and death. There is little point pretending otherwise. Healthy Christians practice rage to God and at God. The Psalms and Lamentations are full of words to pray in the grip of anger. "Lord, break the teeth of the wicked," (Psalm 3:7) is one of my go-to prayers.
If we pray our rage, we're better equipped to engage in spiritual practice #2.
2. Practice compassion.
Compassion is easy when you're feeling benevolent, secure, well rested, and spiritual. It requires grit when you're tired, anxious, grief-stricken, or angry. Jesus' command to 'turn the other cheek,' (Matthew 5) is a call to forceful compassion in the presence of the fight, fly, or flee reflex. Practicing compassion requires us to remember that we have been forgiven and accepted despite our darkest failures and deep wrongs, and to accept that the people who we find most difficult to love are also created in God's image.
If we practice compassion, we are more spiritually able to engage in spiritual practice #3.
3. Pursue justice.
Not all of us are medical providers, journalists, epidemiologists, activists, or political leaders, but that does not exempt us from pursuing justice in this season. Everyone can pray. Many can give. All of us can look to our neighbors who are disproportionally vulnerable and ask, "What can I do to serve?"
Practicing justice in small decisions, (what do I buy, who could I help) leads us to spiritual discipline #4.
4. Embrace humility.
In the contemplative Christian tradition humility is acting from the conviction that every person I see, including the person I see in the mirror, is a beloved child, crafted in the image of God. When fully understood, this liberates us from our need to validate ourselves through our work, success, abilities, physical attractiveness, status, wealth, etc. We are free to embrace our smallness only when we're anchored in the ocean of God's love. Try sitting in a chair today, (and again tomorrow) for 30 seconds, 1 minute, or longer and see if you can focus on nothing else except letting God love you.
Embracing humility helps us pursue discipline #5 in a healthy way.
5. Pray for others!
In the Christian tradition intercessory prayer is a way of rebelling against the status quo. It is to announce that our current reality is not aligned with God's hope and design. It is to align our heart, mind, and will with God's heart of suffering love and redemptive power. In prayer we ask for God's power to break through the darkness and difficulties of our current reality.
And, having prayed, we commit ourselves, resources, time, effort, and relational energy to participate in practical ways toward God's redemptive future.
None of these spiritual disciplines will make the pandemic go away. Nor will they insulate us from suffering, grief, or loss. What they will do, instead, is shape us into women and men with capacity to endure this overwhelming trial. They will keep us tethered to God, to ourselves, and to others. They will help us to hold on to life, even in the face of death.