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Opinion >  Column

Living in these fearful times means living for others

The Rev. Gen Heywood is the pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ and a guest columnist for Spokane Faith and Values.   (Courtesy Spokane Faith and Values)
The Rev. Gen Heywood is the pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ and a guest columnist for Spokane Faith and Values.  (Courtesy Spokane Faith and Values)

Recently, Spokane Faith and Values hosted Coffee Talk event titled “Living in a Time of Fear.” Using this title as a Lectio Divina meditation, a practice of repeating a phrase and allowing the words to raise awareness, these insights took shape.

The first word that demanded attention was “fear.” Many of us experience fear in our daily lives, even before COVID-19. Our society has cultivated fear of our neighbor by making skin color, faith practice, class, gender and sexual identity something dangerous. The fear response causes us to react rather than think. Sadly, it is an effective way to create solidarity. This use of fear goes against all spiritual practices, especially Christianity’s sacred Gospels.

As people on spiritual paths, we practice discernment. This is a process of determining if something is true, really true, and determining how we will live. Fear can be a member of the discernment committee, but it must be only one of the advisers to our hearts, minds and souls.

The next word to come forward for meditation was “living.” When it sprang up, it sounded louder and brighter than “fear.”

It is a deeply spiritual practice to choose how we will live. As we experience COVID’s destruction, the death throes of white supremacy and Christian dominionism, we choose intentional ways to live.

Note the “we” in this statement. In the Christian Scripture when English speakers read, “You are the light to the world,” or “Blessed are you…,” too many hear that “you” as singular. Many other languages including the original language of our sacred texts are clear that the “you” in Scripture is most often plural not singular.

“We” are meant to be living for and with one another. When each of us is living concerned for the wellbeing of everyone, we actually gain as individuals because – as odd as it may seem – everyone includes each individual.

When we are living in a time of fear we are participating in a deeply spiritual practice where we open ourselves to change our beliefs about ourselves, others and even the Divine. To be living is to be changing.

Even through these hardships, we can practice simple mindful acts done for the good of all: wearing a mask, practicing distancing, keeping good hygiene, voting, being involved with leadership and listening carefully to other voices. Living concerned for the good of others makes even this a time for a life well lived.

As Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Finally in meditation with “Living in a Time of Fear,” a subdued “time” spoke out. There are those who will say that time is an illusion. My experience of living in a mortal body and watching others living through their mortal experiences, makes time very real and limited. Strangely, this is a comfort and a challenge. It is a comfort to know that this time will pass. It is, also, a challenge for us to determine how we will be living in the time that we have.

The famous Methodist John Wesley is credited with saying something like, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

We have a short time to be living.

Imagine that there is an advisory committee in your heart that determines the way to be living in this time. At that table let compassion, justice, humility, fear, hope and others from your spiritual or faith practice be equal advisers. Listening to all of these, discern how to be living for the good of everyone so we may live out the universal spiritual practice to actively do for others as we want done for ourselves.

The Rev. Gen Heywood is the pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ and the lead organizer of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

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