THE MEASURE OF MY FAITH—Spiritual discipline in a time of isolation

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by Laurel Archer

I’m writing this article in April, in the middle of Holy Week, which is a kind of “time-travelling” opportunity we take with Jesus. We’re invited to journey with Him to the cross before we celebrate Easter and the gift of salvation—a journey made more poignant this year by COVID-19. But any article can allow us to travel backward or forward with the writer, so I’m inviting you to time-travel with me as you read.

As I practise isolation strategies in April, I’m clear about what’s happening in the here and now. But I don’t know what’s currently happening in Canada as you read this article in October. Will the crisis of COVID-19 be mostly over? Will regular life with its eclectic obligations have resumed? Will we be trying to shove the memory of it under the carpet to forget the stresses, the mistakes, the losses? Will everything forever be different, shaded by our grief and dismay as we reorganize under a new normal in ways we haven’t yet discovered? I suspect we are not yet finished with learning new ways of being.

In the first few days of the crisis, I wrote a poem titled “Suggestions.” It was my way of instructing myself in the posture I wished to hold and the way I wanted to live through this unexpected global pandemic. We all hoped it would be a little like holding one’s breath while swimming the length of a pool—hard but possible with practice. But what we experienced was more like the survival technique of drownproofing, meant to sustain life until rescue, a humble practice that acknowledges a life-threatening situation compared to something that could be described as a performance of personal achievement.

SUGGESTIONS

Recognize the gifts

in this legislated slowdown:

solitude, silence, holy fast.

Resist filling this gifted space

with fear, hoarding, rebellion,

ranting, worry, despair.

Resolve your wrongs – apologize, repent.

Recover the art of good conversation.

Explore your “I’ll get to that later”s

like: clean the garage, clear the clutter,

organize your photos, fix whatever it is—yes, DIY!

You can still be kind;

when you meet someone, smile

with your eyes—no, with your whole face!

Don’t be afraid to be with yourself.

Learn something new.

Play with your children, play like children.

Husha, husha, we all fall down.

Hug the person who is always close anyway…

 

Try prayer.

Permeate the pandemic

with it, shatter its grip

on your heart, on your mind

on everything, on everyone.

© 2020 Laurel Archer

The postures I propose are accessible, doable, and will with practice help to connect us with others, simplify life, develop personal responsibility and, most important, dependence on God.  Yes, they are personal and spiritual disciplines—but they put us in position to be reached by God for development and also for rescue. Paul calls these practices in Romans 12:3 the “measure of faith.” This is our contribution to the body of Christ that we make with “sober judgment” and consideration.

This careful way of being also shows up in chapter 10 of Hebrews. The writer reasons, “… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together …(v. 24, ESV, emphasis added). Sadly, we have used this as a proof text for church attendance rather than as a call to creativity around how to connect with each other. COVID-19 has certainly pushed us every day to reach beyond our well-worn methods of connecting because of what the situation has required. The writer provides two other grounding practices to create a tripod of spiritual discipline:  “… let us draw near [to God] with a true heart …” (v. 22, ESV, emphasis added) and “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”  (v .23, ESV, emphasis added). These three points are declared not with a confidence that comes from personal achievements, but from that which comes through the work of Christ and gives us access to the Holy of Holies, where God’s companionship comforts and instructs us through the toughest of times. 

The real question is not what we were able to accomplish in this season. Rather, have we allowed these holy postures to deepen us so that the transformation of our inner spiritual lives are able to engage the outer circumstances in the world with faith, hope and love?

Here in April, I’m getting in touch again with the “measure of [my] faith,” which is, in all cases, the precise measure needed to do whatever it is God has called me to do.  

Looking ahead, am I still recognizing the gifts that were given by God’s grace to journey through the wilderness of a pandemic? Am I still allowing the refining fire of the Holy Spirit to cleanse and heal me, correcting bad habits and introducing new holy ones? Am I involved at a deeper level in the lives of those whom God has given me to love well?  Are my eyes open to see those who are vulnerable and need help, and am I responding with kindness and generosity? Am I still praying with fervour and cultivating my measure of faith?

Now it’s your turn. Reverse the time-travelling process and rewind to Holy Week in April. Was God calling you to draw near, hold fast to hope, and consider how to stir others up in love? How will you cultivate your measure of faith in this world that has forever been changed by COVID-19? May Jesus’ example lead us on in our walk of faith and service to one another. 

Laurel Archer serves as assistant family life pastor at Christian Life Assembly in Langley, B.C. You can read more of her poetry on her blog: www.fourpartshope.com.

This article appeared in the October/November/December 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos by Chris Liu on Unsplash and Shelby Miller on Unsplash.