A Time to Re-Set
If you’re paying attention at all, you can’t help coming to the conclusion that things seem to be spinning a bit out of control. This isn’t a political statement or opinion – just an observation. Of course, it all becomes fodder for political debate and accusation as to who is at fault and how to “fix” things; but there can be little argument that our country and our world are in turmoil. The horrific invasion in Ukraine continues to bring suffering to millions, and threatens world peace. Economic hardship is affecting us all, especially those on the lower end of the scale who work paycheck to paycheck. Violent crime is sharply on the rise, along with drug overdoses throughout our country. Values and moral norms that have been taken for granted for centuries are now up for grabs. I could go on, but chances are you watch the news and are on social media enough to know of what I speak.
In all of this, there are several reactions we might have, and we see them played out day-to-day. We can stop watching the news, get off of social media, and stop allowing outside forces to shape and manipulate our worldview. Indeed, a little less news consumption in the 24-hour cycle might be good for all of us. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we can easily become so absorbed in all that’s going on around us that it drives us to cynicism and even despair. We can easily find ourselves dividing the world into two camps – friends (those who agree with us) and enemies (those who don’t.)
For people of faith, it’s become commonplace to pronounce that the root cause of all of our problems is a spiritual. But this is truly more than just a cliché. We are created for God, and without recognizing that He is the One “in whom we live, and move, and have our being,” then everything else becomes disordered, and collapses into chaos. Without God, we lose our center, our purpose. We each become our own “god,” or we assign that role to ideologies or political institutions. When this happens, we then easily stand in judgment of those whom we view as enemies. Division, polarization, violence, and war are the result. This has been going on since Cain killed Abel. It continues in our own day.
For many Christian traditions, we are in the season of Lent – a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and charity, in preparation for the celebration of Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For those of us who observe Lent, this is a time to regain perspective. In the Orthodox Christian Tradition, we abstain from certain foods and devote ourselves to more time in prayer, so that we might re-orient our lives towards God. This is the “Great Re-Set” we all need – a kind of spiritual “re-calibration” of our compass. It’s a time to self-consciously remember who we are in relation to God, to acknowledge our tendency to satisfy our own selfish desires, and to seek to love and serve our fellow human beings are as persons created in God’s image.
There is a particular prayer that is prayed during these 40 days, coming from a fourth-century spiritual father, St. Ephraim of Syria. It is a prayer that speaks to our current time of chaos and uncertainty. It is a prayer that speaks to our tendency to demonize others, rather than focusing on our own faults and need for God’s grace. It is a prayer that calls us to return to God, with humility and love for Him and for His children. I commend it to you as we find ourselves in times of uncertainty, conflict, and increased hostility. It’s a prayer to help us re-orient ourselves to God, the center of our life:
Lord and Master of my life, deliver me from the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and gossip. Rather, grant the spirit of wisdom, humility, patience, and love to me, Your servant. Yes, Lord and King, grant that I may see my own faults and not judge my brethren, for You are blessed to the ages of ages.
Fr. David Henderson, St. John the Baptist Orthodox Christian Church, firstname.lastname@example.org
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