The events of the past several weeks blew in like a sudden snowstorm – blinding, unpredictable, disorienting and leaving the landscape undefined, blanketed by uncertainty.
But as things “calm” and we become even more aware of how not normal life is, aware of the lack of our usual coping mechanisms, mental and emotional props, with many of the things and people that bring us life far removed, how do we respond? Is there a way to not just survive this wilderness journey but actually thrive?
Some of the most common advice we are all hearing right now from TED talks, authors, famous CEO’s and the NHS is the importance of routine, of “fixed hour” schedules.
But this concept is ancient – modelled by Jesus, the apostles, the desert mothers and fathers and by the monastics down through the centuries. It has been referred to as a ‘Rule of Life’, ‘spiritual disciplines’, ‘spiritual practices’ or ‘rhythms’.
In his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer refers to spiritual practices as a sort of trellis for our intimacy with and abiding in Jesus, our Source of life, peace and hope.
He says that spiritual practices are “how we follow Jesus. How we adopt His lifestyle. How we create space for emotional health and spiritual life.”
This has been my experience of the various spiritual rhythms and practices I have put into place in my life and leaned into over the years.
Those of you who have walked through grief will know well the disorientation that comes with it, the loss of any sense of the familiar, the sense of the landscape around you losing its definition and certainty as every part of life is touched by your grief. Yes, life around you goes on as “normal” yet even the most familiar things do not feel normal anymore.
This was how I felt when my mum passed away after a long battle with cancer. I felt numb and even reading familiar Scripture passages that I had once loved and leaned on brought no comfort. All I saw were words on a page, lifeless to me.
But I had cultivated a daily spiritual rhythm long before this journey through “the valley of the shadow of death” and this rhythm remained a part of daily life and steadied me, anchored me, keeping my soul and spirit connected to the Source of my life, peace and hope.
I began every morning with the “Morning Office” found in The Celtic Daily Prayer book published by the Northumbria Community which consisted of written prayers, short Scripture readings and short reflections. Then I finished every day with praying that night’s Compline ( a written prayer for before bed ).
It was also during this time that I discovered the richness of the Psalms. I had read the Psalms many times. Yet in my grief they took on a new life and meaning for me, as the Psalmists gave me a language for the emotions I had previously been unable to express.
When I came out of the darkest part of that valley of grief, I came out having not just survived, but my spirit and soul feeling well fed and cared for.
So though I have also felt the disorientation of this life during Covid-19 and have had some definite “valley” days, I have been deeply grateful for the spiritual rhythms present in my daily life. At the very beginning of lockdown I also instinctively returned to a nightly Compline. These practices have truly been a Source life, peace and hope for me during these past weeks.
I pray that you also can identify some daily spiritual practices that work for you and become that “trellis” that connects you to the life, peace and hope found in Jesus.
Over the next few weeks, various friends will be sharing what practices and rhythms have been their anchor point during these weeks of lockdown, so be watching for a new post every Wednesday.