Being Spiritually Present in Turbulent Times
We are living in turbulent times. Of course, that has been said many times throughout history but the current political scene and the incredibly fast pace of our culture has brought with it uncharted waters like we have never seen.
Watching the news at night is not so much informative as it is stressful. People are worked up, on edge, fearful, and do not know what will happen next. Health care is being debated and it's easy to forget that there are real lives at stake. It's not just political theatre. The biggest challenge in the midst of all this is what it does for those of us seeking to maintain a sense of spiritual centeredness in an age of growing fear and anxiety.
Henri Nouwen was a world-renown spiritual guide and counselor. His writings have served as a spiritual anchor for many, myself included. Nouwen says this about the spiritual life: "the spiritual life is not a life before, after, or beyond our every day existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of pains and joys of the here and now."
All human beings, whether we admit it or not, hunger for the spirit. We are spiritual beings. We long for something deeper and more meaningful. We long for connection, not only with each other but also with God. But the great irony is that we are too busy, too preoccupied, too restless, too fearful, and too anxious for this to actually happen. We worry ourselves to death over things that may or may not take place. We are busy with many things but all too often, it's the wrong things. Loneliness has become a defining challenge of our time. Why? Because we are too busy and remain unconnected. The culture is shallow and superficial. We ask others how they are doing and don't even wait for a response.
Nouwen says, "out of all this pervading loneliness many cry, 'Is there anyone who really cares? Is there anyone who can take away my inner sense of isolation? Is there anyone with whom I can feel at home?'" These are great questions and ones that we all ask. But we long for answers. Nouwen says, "one way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but can't be found there."
In western culture, we are not very good at being present. Distracted? Yes! Preoccupied? Yes! Driven? Yes! Worried? Yes! But present? Not so much. We believe that happiness and fulfillment will come at some future time but for many it never arrives. This is our spiritual crisis and one that must be identified and taken seriously. Social media is not cutting it, and may actually be a big part of the problem. Presence is the challenge. Living in the moment, which is the only moment we have, is essential. Jesus said, "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" No, we can't. But we can certainly lose an hour, a day, a year, or even a lifetime.