Over the past few years, I have neglected a few things that used to be important to me: reading scripture, prayer, journaling, reading, spiritual disciplines, etc. At the same time, I’ve increased some bad habits: sleeping in, watching too much tv, playing games on my iPad, etc. During this time, I’ve noticed a growing skepticism and cynicism towards God, faith, and spiritual things in general. Coincidence?
That’s why my faith has come to resemble this coffee plant.
This plant was healthy and thriving a few years ago. Then it was moved to a place with no natural light. And while the shop was closed for a few months, it wasn’t watered and cared for. This is the result.
Over this past weekend, I got away to the Abbey of Gethsemani for what I call my “Soul-Keeping Retreat” and a strange thing happened. As soon as I rid myself of the distraction of my devices and put myself in an atmosphere conducive to silence, solitude, and prayer…my soul perked up. The soil of my heart became receptive again…becoming moist with the Spirit. As I was also fasting, my soul recognized its hunger again for the things of God. I read a few books, attended prayer times with the monks, and went on long hikes in the woods…praying and reflecting.
As I drove back to Cincinnati on Sunday evening, I wept in worship listening to some old Keith Green songs. One song in particular struck me with this line: “Oh, I want to thank you now for being patient with me…It’s been so hard to see, when my eyes are on me…I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say…” It has been quite awhile since I’ve encountered God’s presence in worship like that.
In sharing this experience, I suppose a confession is implied. I’ve been going through what some have called the “dark night of the soul” but kept it to myself for the most part. I’ve tried to continue doing, saying, and living in a way that most wouldn’t know of my struggle. Only a few people were aware of the depths of my doubt and spiritual anxiety over the past few years. One of those was my older brother. And perhaps that why his recent death was such a blow. When he was gone, I knew that one of only 2-3 people I could talk to was no longer there. In a way, that may have set me up for this spiritual renewal or “homecoming” this past weekend.
It will still be a process of nurturing the “plant” of my soul back to good health (which is a Spirit-thing and not something I can do by willing it to happen). And the selfish habits I’ve developed over the past few years will probably not change easily, but I can tell that there’s been a fundamental change…a reconnection to the Source that is fueling me now. There’s a new sense of HOPE…elpida! Perhaps more about that in the next post.