Finding Something New in the Unknown
By Rev. Juliet Focken, Assistant to the Bishop
I was feeling pretty unfocused and just a COVID-hot-mess. With four kids, my husband and I both working from home, there was no quiet time and there was no space for any spiritual practices. I saw an ad for a program that works on your brain's neuroplasticity, that helps you to be more focused on who you are called to be. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Walking a fine line between enough scientific research to allow me to trust the program and little steps that are adding new behaviors, the program seemed to be a great fit. Especially when I’ve been struggling to figure out how I can lead and give direction when it feels like my life is a mess. I’ve been wondering if there was a way to intentionally focus more of my new daily routine into spiritual practices. The reality of this uncertain time is that there is no additional time to carve out for anything; there is work, kids, and life all happening within the walls of our home twenty-four hours a day. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what if I can add in little steps to my routine to make it more focused?
Created by a popular shoe brand (the company that donates a pair to someone in need when you buy a pair), the program is a ten month look into refocusing little behaviors so that you can bring your best self to every situation, to really be ready for what you are made for. This leads to small steps and small achievements turning into changes in lifestyle. There are books and classes and all the stuff that helps one change their behavior, but what I didn’t realize was how it could also change my attention and help me be more present in the little aspects of life.
My first challenge- hydration; I would drink, write, and reflect. Easy enough, but then my call got in the way. My reflection reminded me of the numerous conversations I’ve had with leaders and laity about how the worst part of COVID time is not feeling connected. The most difficult part is feeling like we are communities in exile, because even when we are together it is different and odd. I started thinking of our story, how important water is to our people and how it changes the relationship. I knew what I’ve been missing is connection to something larger than myself, some reconnection to God and the story of his people. I started to wonder if I could turn drinking water into my spiritual practice. Maybe not forever, but maybe just now as we’re stuck between the time before and what will be next. During this middle time, I might not be able to set aside large chunks of time for quiet, but what if each little step was a reminder of who I am and the story of our people?
My goal is to drink six bottles of water a day, that’s the amount that makes me feel good and healthy. So, what if I use each one of those as a way to reconnect myself through prayer and thanksgiving? What if with every sip, I just think about our story as God’s people?
1) What if when I drink my first bottle, I think of creation? I can focus on a God so powerful that he can bring the world into being with just the power of his voice. Our God that felt that it was important to separate the land and the water, and then fill the water with all sorts of marvelous critters. Thank you God for your care. How can I better care for your world around me?
2) What if the second bottle is a reminder of the flood? Where there was sin and pain, and God called Noah to start the world a new, but more than that God put his weapon of war (the bow) up on the shelf and promised to be with us. Don’t we need to tell that story more? Thank you God for your faithfulness. How can I better be faithful to you?
3) What if the third bottle leads me to remember Moses? Abandoned as a baby, floating down river, soft lapping against the basket made with reeds and pitch. Later he would grow into a great leader that would be the voice of struggle and change, leading God’s people through the river into freedom. But also to remember that even on the road to the promised land, there is struggle and pain. There is hunger and confusion, but that God continues with his people. God even stays with his people when they are a hot-stubborn-mess, I always need to remember that. Thank you God for sticking with us, even when things are scary. I wonder how I can better support others?
4) What if the fourth bottle is the reminder of the day that a crazy man in camel’s hair was in the river baptizing, when his cousin came by? This is the same cousin that when they were still in the womb, (John) leapt in joy to be near. And now his cousin stood before him, wanting to be baptized by water, but called out by God as the “one dear Son, in him I take great delight.” Thank you God for coming to earth and living among us. I wonder how I can bring delight to God?
5) What if the fifth bottle is how I am part of this story, living out my baptism? It isn’t just what has happened, but how God continues to act. That in each day, I live out the promise that God loves me and has called me by name to be able to do the work I do. Thank you God for creating me and calling me by name. How can I live out my baptism today?
6) What if the last bottle is a reminder of what is next? A reminder of all of the saints who have gone before and now rest in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. If I can take that time to give thanks for all the healthcare professionals working each day to care for those in need. A reminder that even death cannot separate us from the creator. Thank you God for the freedom to not have to worry about what is next. Thank you for taking care of that for us. I wonder who else needs to hear this story?
So that, when I’m drinking each bottle, it isn’t just a simple story, it’s part of the very essence of everything I do. It’s the story that connects us but the actions that change us. If each time I take a sip, I’m retelling and bringing the story to life?
What if just one sip of water is the part I hunger for most when we’re all physically separated?
Do you think that water can become a spiritual practice?
How have you found ways to connect when we can’t be together in person?
Have you taken on a new spiritual practice in these times that may not be forever, but for right now it’s calling you to something new?