Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
It is nice to see things starting to open back up again. Do you agree? There is a long-awaited, exhilarating return to normal (or at least, a new normal) throughout our country. People are going back into the office for work. Students are no longer learning virtually; and recently they have seen mask-wearing become optional. Restaurants are using printed menus. Sporting events and concert halls are filling up again. Theaters and auditoriums have begun to open up. It is no longer taboo to reach out to shake the hand of a person you’re greeting. Our children can attend parties of their friends. Adults can sit shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Lines and wait times at the DMV have improved (…just kidding). It is even possible to let an innocent sneeze or harmless cough be heard in public spaces without people looking at you with condemning daggers in their eyes. To be sure, COVID has left much heartache and grief in its wake. We must continue to be smart and diligent in how we treat it and minimize further impact. But thankfully, the countless and disruptive waves of this two-year pandemic, seem to finally be subsiding.
What have you enjoyed doing again? What has made you feel normal again? Shopping without a mask? Attending the school event of your child or grandchild? Taking an overdue vacation? Gathering indoors with friends and family? Hugging a loved one or a friend you hadn’t seen in months? Going to a concert? Putting on pants and actually doing your hair or makeup to do something other than just take the trashcans out to the curb?
One of the things I recently resumed, and found great, unexpected enjoyment from, was going back to the gym. I know this sounds strange. Sweating, squatting, and grunting is not everyone’s idea of a good time. Believe me, it is not mine either. Yet I know there are undeniable health benefits for someone like me. Physical exercise is good; it is important. After 2+ years of absence, I finally got back into the groove and joined a nearby fitness center. One of the things I quickly noticed—and it was an unflattering reality check—is that I had gotten much scrawnier during my absence. Some of the weights I was previously able to lift with ease, are not currently possible. A 30-minute warmup on the elliptical now leaves me breathing a bit heavier than it used to. There is no denying it; I’m weaker than I was before. Granted, the strength and endurance will come back eventually, but only if I keep getting to the gym. Only if I keep showing up. Only if I am disciplined enough to commit to a regular, challenging workout regimen.
May I ask, coming out of these past two pandemic years, what does your spiritual life look like? Are you just as spiritually strong today as you might have been two years ago? Have you been keeping up with the valuable exercises of Bible reading and prayer? The reality of this pandemic is that it has ravaged the regular worship patterns and attendance of nearly every church, regardless of denomination, across the nation. Studies and statistics show a stark reality—that many people who left the church because of the pandemic have not come back yet. And many have little desire or plan to do so. Many people say they’ve gotten used to not going. They’ve gotten out of the habit. Or they just find that the occasional virtual service to be a good enough option. These same studies, show that people feel more disconnected with God than they did two years ago. Based on recent conversations with neighboring clergy, across all faiths, I believe this sentiment represents many in our community also.
As we eagerly “get back to normal,” I urge you to consider what this might mean for you and your family in spiritual matters. No more excuses. No more staying away. No more being weak. The time has come to get back to our religious gym and restart some good, Godly habits. It is time to exercise and flex those faith muscles again. It is time to get off the couch and into a challenging, edifying habit of religious growth. Time to return to the routine and regularity of worship. It is time to reconnect and reprioritize your walk with God. Just like the gym, I promise you there are so many benefits you will find.
Pastor Steve Vera