Noise and motion, busyness, activity and pressure! There’s energy in urban centers like metro DC and its part of what attracts me to our city. Yet it can be brutal when it runs amok and we assume that bigger is always better and we divide the world between winners and losers. Donald Trump has personified this in the news cycle in the past several weeks. Notice how the media is drawn to this circus like moths to a flame.
There can be a great gulf between our outer life of work, roles, and responsibility and our inner life enriched by God’s presence. Our insecurities turn our fast-paced, urban world cruel and ugly. For some, this is masked as drive and ambition; others lose confidence, despair, and even become suicidal. Growing in spiritual wisdom and maturity necessarily involves recognizing and coming to terms with this part of our lives. It also entails finding a space where deep touches deep and we connect with the spirit of life within.
We need to make space for God in our lives. This will be different for each of us. Gardening is one way that I get in touch with nature, with myself, and with what I sense as the Spirit of God alive in all creation. It’s hard to explain. It’s the fruitfulness of the natural world, working my muscles, feeling the sweat on my brow, and biting into a fresh tomato—this connects me with an unfathomable power much greater than myself.
I should quickly add that I can easily fret and become anxious, I can be self-absorbed in a way that keeps me from connecting with others, and I can become bored and distracted. Sometimes the creative source and ground of being that we call God seems far removed from my life. Like everyone else, I have questions and doubts. That’s why I love being a pastor with its rhythm of relating to church members, connecting with all kinds of people in our community, preparing weekly worship services, studying, and writing sermons. These disciplines keep me grounded.
I want our church to be a spiritual oasis for seekers and those working for the common good in our city. I want us to be a safe place where people feel comfortable expressing their questions, doubts, and fears. Trying to ignore them and stuffing them down certainly doesn’t work.
Rachel Held Evans talks about the doubts and unanswered questions that kept her away from church for a long time, “Doubt will pull you out to sea like a riptide. Or hold your head under as you drown—triggered by an image, a question, something the pastor said, something that doesn’t add up, the unlikelihood of it all, the too-good-to-be-trueness of it, the way the lady in the thick perfume behind you sings “Up from the grave he arose!” with more confidence in a single line of a song than you’ve managed to muster in the past two years” (Studying for Sunday, 186).
Let’s talk about that. I want our church to be a place where honest seekers like Rachel can express such doubts and questions in a group discussion or pop into my office and say, “Hey Earl, what about this?” If that doesn’t work, perhaps we can talk about it in the church garden some morning while we take a break from pulling weeds.