Spiritual Growth in Ordinary Times

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Following the long season of Holy Days and special devotional practices that stretches from the first day of Advent through Trinity Sunday, we now enter that other long season of the church called ordinary time. It is a time when the seeds of worship and devotion sown during the earlier season sprout, take root, and grow. This very much matches the world around us, where nature has fully come alive, the fields and forests have returned to green, and we witness the process of birth and growth which will lead to the fall harvest. Appropriately, our liturgical color for the season is green.

For Christians, this is our growth period and the time for continuing to be mindful of our spiritual lives, adding some water and fertilizer where needed and pulling those weeds that seek to choke off growth. All this is done faithfully so that we might bear fruit individually and as a faith community come harvest time.

So, here is a growth area - trust in the Lord with all your heart. In this season of growth, what is going on with your trust in God with all that you are and all that you have, even to include your thoughts, your hopes, and your aspirations?

In my reading of this piece of wisdom, I understand the goal not as becoming a mindless Christian zombie without my own thoughts or understanding. For the Hebrew people, the heart was the seat of understanding, and not as we might think, a place of the emotions. That was the gut. The goal of trusting God is not mindless obedience. I have seen a bumper sticker that says “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” I do hope there is more thought than seems implied by those words. God gave us the gift of reason so that we might use it to know the will of God and how to apply it in all the varied situations where humans find themselves. Rather than mindlessness, I see this a call to increased mindfulness such that my seeing, my perceiving, my knowing, and my acting increasingly correspond to the mind and will of God. Being mindful, I think about what God thinks about something I am facing and I trust in following that wisdom even when that may be the hard, the unpopular, and the lonely way.

The writer of Proverbs exhorts the person who would be wise to submit, but maybe we can think of this not as self-abasement or humiliation, not as denying our thoughts and intellect, but as becoming more thoughtful, more mindful, and increasingly making God’s way our way in all things and situations so that there is less and less distinction between the two. The faithful promise of God, and God is always faithful, is that this kind of growing mindfulness will direct us in the path we should go.

Here is a discipline that some seeking mindfulness of God may find helpful in this ordinary time. Theologian Karl Barth is said to have once told some young theologians not to isolate themselves from the world, but to read the newspapers and the Bible, and then to interpret the news from the view of the Bible. As a practice in mindfulness, this might be a good start. When you review the news of the day, ask: How does God feel about the events and the people I have encountered in the news? How do I feel toward them and how should I feel toward them? Pray for the grace to have the mind and heart of God.

Grace and peace,