How to survive the fall online

If you are knee-deep in new work right now, studying or commuting or home-schooling children, God bless you and I’m with you. Most of us are trying to find a new normal in this pandemic world, adjusting to circumstances we never imagined before. Every day is a whole new frontier, and at the same time somewhat predictable in its controlled and distanced communication.

I am so grateful for the virtual ways to connect and create right now, but I find that the increased reliance on technology wears on my soul. We are human beings, organic and embodied creatures, having a physical experience with every mental, emotional, and spiritual one. Too much living in our heads like we’re disembodied is taxing to our whole selves.

A simple saving grace I’ve found is getting outside for prayer walks every day. I don’t necessarily walk fast for exercise, and I don’t always have a big chunk of time to spend; my goal is simply to breathe and feel my body and remember that I’m alive. I go without headphones to simply have the experience: being and moving and noticing what’s around me in the real place that I live. Being aware of myself with God brings me to my hesychasm: that still place where my mind can rest in my heart.

Noticing God’s creation out there helps to restore my soul, too. It’s all over the city in cracks in the sidewalk, in abandoned lots, flowing out of windowsills, and of course, in the parks. The grass, the trees, and the flowers remind me that God makes things grow beyond their ability to ask for it or provide for themselves. They are not making themselves the way they are; something else is happening. They are being cared for and producing all this beauty without grasping or pretense. They are just waiting and being, not worrying or stressing, just trusting, like the Psalmist explains in 145: You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. It is preceded by the words: The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. I feel that lifting-up when I observe the simple trust of creation, and the beauty that ensues.

This weekend in the mountains I walked down an unmarked path and came to this pond that was so still and perfectly beautiful I thought it was fake. For the first half a second of my discovery I thought that surely some artist had placed the lily pads in this formation and set the flowers on top to take a picture. (Then I laughed to myself that maybe I’ve lived in the city for too long.) Some Artist DID indeed create this pond, simply for beauty, simply for life, simply to BE, even if no one ever saw it and posted it all over the internet. It was alive and radiant. It was sustained by God’s presence. And as I breathed in the presence of still water, like Wendell Berry wrote, I felt God’s presence and care for me. 

We will be OK, friends, because we are creations and God is alive in us. In the midst of all we face, we are sustained beyond our ability to provide for ourselves. We might live with lots of machines and uncertainty but we are not machines and something more is happening in us. Like Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we have the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Take some regular breaks from the screen this fall to notice the Spirit in you, nurturing your growth, whispering how much you are loved as God’s friend and partner, not just now but forever. 

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