The division and violence of the last few weeks compels me to promote the spiritual practice of perseverance. I can feel a collective exasperation on social media, in conversation, even in worship with every violent disturbance we hear about.
Persevere in any way that feeds your faith.
Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, a Baptist minister and activist who helped coordinate the peaceful Dallas protest that ended with 5 police officers killed by an angry sniper, recently posted a blog entry entitled “Less Spiritual Discipline, More Spiritual Being.” In it he speaks about how various popular Christian spiritual disciplines—like silence, fasting and scripture reading—just weren’t working for him. While attending a retreat in which silence was featured, Jeff decided he had had enough, only to be told by the retreat leader that “those who don’t do silence don’t do God.”
Jeff Hood says movement is a better spiritual discipline for him.
I share this story because so many people are exasperated by the calls for silence as well as “thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims.”
Many of us, even people like me who promote 50 Ways to Pray, want to do more than ask God for guidance in this complex world. Tired of the killings, we would rather call down fire from heaven to (metaphorically, of course) purify us of this bent toward violence.
I want to pray but I also want our police officers everywhere to be taught how to be respectful and decent toward black citizens. I want them to become more aware of their own biases and fears and moderate their behavior around people who may frighten them for no good reason.
I am fine with praying but I also want assault weapons banned.
I’ll pray for those two military veterans who killed police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, but I also want our returning veterans to be screened and helped with their post-traumatic stress syndrome.I’ll pray for peace but I also want an honest assessment of racial tensions in this nation and greater awareness of how white privilege blinds most Caucasians to the racism that the Black Lives Matter movement has been telling and showing us about for at least the last two years.
So, yes, I understand Rev. Hood’s frustration with classical contemplative spiritual disciplines and his call to movement and action. It’s an excellent corrective to the contemplative life that I and most spiritual directors promote. (Although I don’t know many who would contend that people who don’t do silence don’t do God—that’s pretty judgmental!).
Underneath Hood’s blog entry, in the comment section, was a tiny response from one reader: “It’s both-and.”
From a spiritual director’s point of view, that’s it in a nutshell.
Don’t give up. We need prayer and action together.
Don’t give up on prayer. Keep doing whatever kind of prayer feeds your soul. If you are one who soaks God up in silence, have at it. If you need to get your feet moving, like Hood, then move.
Just stay connected and aware of God during these difficult hot summer days, filled with a lot of political fussing and fighting. Stay connected and pray for those who have put their trust in guns and violence. Pray peace. Work for justice.
Just don’t give up.
I have openings in my schedule for new directees—regardless of where you live. I can work by phone or Skype or if you live in the Phoenix metro area we can meet in person. If you are interested in learning more about spiritual direction or entering spiritual direction with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.teresablythe.net. Also visit my website for the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction.