I’ve been thinking a little lately about the churches that have continued to have services en masse in person, while this COVD-19 pandemic is raging. Part of me is furious at these church leaders for disregarding mandates and the wisdom and warnings from scientists and public health experts. However, on the other hand, I understand implicitly this need to gather in community and hold tightly to the traditions that we have trusted in and feel sustained by. It’s scary to be alone when it feels like the sky might be falling, and I know that many would rather bear the curse surrounded by a throng of loved ones than to suffer in terror in isolation.
It’s easy to think that maybe we’ll only see God in religious institutions, in the practices that externally define our faith traditions, in the rituals that we have carefully tended to for years and years. But, as far as I can see, this has never really been the way of God. Sure, I totally believe that all things are sacred and infused with God-being, but in my experience, and through what I’ve seen in many sacred texts, is that divinity shows up most powerfully in the quiet places, the dark places, the abandoned places, the completely unexpected places.
I’m listening to John O’Donohue’s book Walking in Wonder at a lightening pace this week because it is the most marvelous volume of words I’ve heard in a while. It’s a book to get soul-fed through. In one place in the book, O’Donohue references William Blake and Blake’s statement that “Christ is the imagination.”
Bam. Mic drop.
When we think of Christ and God as the boundaried vessels that often result from a literal reading of the Bible, it can sometimes be really hard to find them all around us, and especially in the dark, scary shadows. But if we choose to believe that maybe the most real things that exist are the art of possibility and good questions that rise out of imagination, then we can unearth the Christ in everything we encounter. It takes a bit of risk and bravery, to step out of our binary, superficial ways of thinking…to lay aside our scientific categorization and analysis of everything…to realize and believe that our fears stem from the stories we tell ourselves.
I’m unsettled by this corona pandemic, but I am not undone. This is because I’m gradually, over time, learning to use this gift of imagination to see the Christ in everything. Not the little Christ, the human that lived and died thousands of years ago, but the cosmic Christ, the consciousness, creativity, and love that infuses all things and sustains all things.
Here are specific places that I’ve seen God lately. Maybe they’ll resonate as God to you, maybe not. But I encourage you to stop, quiet yourself, and reflect/imagine through today and previous days where you have seen the Divine appearing…now here…now there. I guarantee you, if you stop and breathe and look carefully, you’ll see that God has not absconded. One of the easiest ways to tell if you’ve stumbled upon God is when you feel even the tiniest spark of joy over anything…or forgot your fears for a quick moment because something brought forth a belly laugh you couldn’t repress…or you were suddenly caught off guard, gasping in awe at a beautiful scene, or kind gesture, or taste of amazing food…or through your own tears, you recognized and held compassion for the tears of another.
Where I’ve seen God over the last few weeks – in no way a comprehensive list:
-when my manager called to tell me one of my elderly patients, who was terrified of dying in the hospital from not being able to breathe, came back as COVID-19 negative, and I literally could not wait to run down the hall and tell her the good news and get her out of there.
-when my firstborn, my little rock who always stands by me and makes me want to be a better person, called me to ask if he could help make face masks for all of the staff on my unit
-when a good friend offered to send me wine and soup from the other side of Indianapolis when I was having a dark day, even when she couldn’t personally bring it to my house.
-when a hospitalist/board member at my hospital recorded for the hospital staff the most moving video of encouragement and humility that I’ve seen in a long time, and I felt just the tiniest bit braver as a result.
-when I stood in the hallway of my unit last week, getting ready to gown up and go into a patient room, and I was frozen for a moment when I glimpsed, surprised, the brilliant pink-orange of a clear morning sunrise rising up over the horizon.
-when a friend saw a picture of me a few days ago in all of my tired, sunburnt, frazzle-haired, sweaty, post-workout messiness, and still said I am beautiful.
-when I’m rescued from the sometimes caving in walls of isolation from friends who say, “Let’s Facetime!”
-when the universe seems to hit me from all around for weeks with references to John O’Donohue, and I finally get the message to pay more attention, and his words bring me fresh life.
-when I see both people that I know and don’t know, rise up to the challenge of this difficult time, and offer the most marvelous, creative ways for us to stay connected on meaningful levels, bringing us the best of their hope and humanity
-when I see people who are scared and uncertain and concerned for their families, get up and go to work as healthcare providers, first responders, and essential workers anyway.
-when I see people, whose first thought is not to protect themselves but to remember the marginalized and disenfranchised among us who are usually the most forgotten.
-when I see people and organizations giving away free food, and coffee, or completely overhauling their manufacturing processes so they can help the causes, even when it will likely hurt their bottom line.
Where do you see God? Where is the joy coming from that is getting you through each day? What is the pain that you are holding and yet not being defeated by? What have you seen or heard that is giving you fresh hope? Help me see the Divine through your imaginations, too.