I can think of no other time in recent history when keeping ourselves and others safe is so vital. Thankfully, the practices are simple: Regularly washing or sanitizing hands, maintaining social distance from one another, and wearing a protective face covering.
Keeping faith is just as essential. The spiritual practices that sustain our faith are simple, too: Being prayerful in our thoughts, compassionate in our words, and merciful in our actions.
Yet, the coronavirus pandemic challenges the beliefs that inform our faith and, more than this, our easy and comfortable understanding of God.
For myself, I never believed in a personal God or a God that intervenes in human history. The God of my understanding is bigger and wider than we humans imagine, more mystery than certainty, neither here nor there but everywhere. This is the God of my ease and comfort.
Even with this open-hearted, wonder-filled, life-affirming faith I hold at times I come face to face with doubts and despair. I fear that my faith is dissolving into fatalism. I find myself in moments feeling emotionally and spiritually defeated and resigned to whatever the future may hold. I think to myself, “Well, I’ll just live until I die” — a soul-crushing way to live or die.
So in times of doubt and despair, I recall Paul’s guidance in his Letter to the Hebrews in the Christian testament — “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11.1) — and I’m reminded again of the powerful feeling of faith, intangible but insistent, within me and around me.
With Paul’s words I return again to a wide sense of hope, even when the outcome is unknowable, and a deep trust in things beyond my earthly senses.
Let us keep safe and keep faith at once: As we cleanse our hands we cleanse our minds, as we social distance we invite God’s spirit to fill the space, as we cover our faces we open our hearts to all the things hoped for and may yet someday see.
Photo: Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, Conn.