Here’s a clear truth from the last few weeks: we’ve learned some new words and phrases. And one of the most repeated I’ve heard is “social distancing.” We introverts know all about that, but this usage doesn’t quite mean the same.
And so it has people talking-even wondering if it’s quite right. See this post from a Facebook friend.
In talking about this with a staff member today along with the choices churches are facing due to “gathering” restrictions, it hit me that we are dealing with another thing for many people; I’ll call it spiritual distancing. For some, this isn’t a new thing. They already keep their distance from spiritual people and conversations. So what about those who are not only being restricted socially but in some sense spiritually?
Multiple answers abound, thanks to the Internet. If you are hungry and resourceful enough, you can find spiritual food to keep you close and healthy rather than distant and wondering. Here are my top two suggestions:
- Podcasts…if you haven’t dipped your toe in this ocean, now would be a great time to get wet. Two suggestions: 1) Most well-known pastors/authors have podcasts. Search for them and subscribe. 2) My preference is to search for episode topics rather than follow the same person. For instance, you could search “prayer,” “faith,” “peace from God,” or “overcoming fear.” Search and find voices God can use to overcome spiritual distancing.
- Youversion…the best Bible app. I have to be honest. I haven’t tried any others. But there is so much to like about this one. One element that can tremendously impact spiritual distancing is the reading plans. There are loads of options. And maybe the best kept secret about the app is that you can invite friends to read the plan with you and offer conversation between all those reading the plan. That brings spiritual people closer to one another and hopefully closer to God.
My encouragement to you is this. Whatever some one or some thing may create to force distance between you and God, stand up. Resist. Draw close. Feed that hunger. Connect. Avoid spiritual distancing.
I’m really enjoying my current read, A Spirituality of Listening by Keith Anderson. If you’re attending First Baptist Bradenton tomorrow, you’ll hear some references.
I just finished chapter five, Story: Shaped by Biblical Narrative. Here are some examples of why you might enjoy this book:
God doesn’t ask that we rise above all of life’s pain; rather, he asks that we bring all of our story to God. God doesn’t ask that we walk around in disguise pretending there are no holes in our hearts; God asks that we bring those painful hearts to the throne of grace.
When someone says thank you for something you have done, it is a gift of gratitude from God. When someone shows you love, that love is a gift of grace from God. When someone tells you the truth, it is a gift of love because God cares to move you from your defenses, hiding, and resistance. Telling our story to one another is perhaps the most sacred thing we do because God shows up in the words, emotions, and crafting of our words.
Listening isn’t always something we want to do. I’ve become fascinated by our capacity for hearing in recent years. Now in my 60s, I am losing capacity to hear in one ear. It comes in handy when I’m being told something I really don’t want to hear. It’s convenient when I need a good excuse to miss a deadline or just prefer not to have definite instructions for something I might not want to do. It doesn’t mean I can’t hear at all in the “bad ear,” I just sometimes can’t tell you what the words are. I might hear sounds, muffled words and intonations. To hear the words, I must turn my face and my good ear to the speaking voice. That makes it, for me, a metaphor for spirituality – we turn our face so we can hear again. We turn our face in a new direction so the words have meaning and are not merely sounds.
This is a quote from a book I just started reading entitled A Spirituality of Listening.
I appreciate the metaphor. If I’m going to hear what God is saying to me, it’s vital that my face and my ears are turned in his direction. What might keep my face and ears turned away?
- All sorts of fears and lies that the enemy would rather I choose to listen to
So in order to listen, I have to turn my face and ears by choosing humility, surrendering control, trusting truth, embracing discomfort, and recalling God’s ways are indeed best.
Here’s to better and deeper listening!
This afternoon I finished reading my final book for 2017, The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I shared a thought from his book a few days ago regarding a sabbath type exercise, which he offers many of in this book. Here’s one from chapter 10 that seems fitting for New Year’s Eve:
A good Sabbath exercise is to take stock. It is to sit and reckon where you are spiritually and calculate the gap between that and where you want to be – or, at least, where you know you ought to want to be. Do you want more grace, or trust, or peace? Do you want a greater sense of God’s presence and goodness? Do you want to live by Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:29, to “not let any unwholesome talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”?
What if our resolutions for the new year were spiritual in nature?
What if our first priority was about our souls, our spirits?
What if a year from now we could say, “Thank God my spiritual gap isn’t as big as it was“?
I just finished reading Awe by Paul David Tripp, second time, first 2017 reading. If you’ve yet to read it, I encourage you to bump it up your list.
Here’s an example why. Chapter 13 is entitled “Work.” The challenge is to consider how your awe of God compares to your awe of work.
Could it be that you’re asking work to do for you what it cannot do?
God is too wise and loving ever to call you to one area of responsibility that will necessitate you being irresponsible in another.
The drawing above illustrates Tripp’s challenge. These domains are what we have been given in life, our calling. Keeping them in balance, owning our responsibility is vital.
To check your life balance, here are three questions and suggestions regarding your awe:
- In each individual domain, rate your awe of God in that domain using a scale of 1-10.
- Considering the three domains together where the ideal would be a balance of thirds (33.33% each), what percentage would you give each of them today? (Consider drawing your own graph as a visual)
- What can you address in these domains to achieve better balance and responsibility and to deepen your awe of God?
One reality to living alone-if you don’t do the chores, ain’t nobody else going to either. As a task-oriented guy, not usually a big deal.
But then there’s these two things: mopping and dusting. What is it with these two? Does anyone else dislike them as much as I do? I won’t tell you my lack of getting them done in order to protect my reputation of being neat and tidy.
I’ve noticed something else. There are also some spiritual disciplines that I have the same problem with. Just like house chores, some spiritual disciplines are just more enjoyable, easier, or natural. Yet, when I make myself do the less enjoyable ones, just like when I dust or mop, I’m glad I did. Like the reflection of mopped tile, my soul feels cleaner and more reflective of God.
So how do we tackle these “but I don’t want to” chores and disciplines? It doesn’t seem to work to wait until the mood strikes or to just suck it up and grudgingly put them on the to do list, on which they seem to easily get bumped down. I’m not sure what would work for you, but I can tell you what happened today to cause me to dust. I decided I wanted to see clean, to see a reflection more than anything else. It comes down to choice, to wanting better, to having the end in mind, to not settling for easy. My want has to change.
The example I can draw from in a different area of my life is running. Right now, I’m back to running 20+ miles a week-haven’t been there in almost 4 years. I’m doing that to build a foundation that will prepare me to train for the longest race in my life next year. I want to run this race. I don’t always want to get up in the dark and run. I don’t always want to endure the summer humidity. But when I remember the end in mind, I get up and hit the road. And I’m glad I did when I finish.
What’s your end game? What do you need to decide you want in order to do what you don’t want to do? Nail it down. You’ll be glad you did.