How is it with your spirit?

One of the questions that we all are responding to frequently is “How are your feeling today?” It is the beginning of a series of questions that are intended to screen those who are suffering from symptoms that might indicate that they have succumbed to the novel coronavirus. Covid-19 is no joke. More than 140,000 dead in the United States. More than 600,000 dead worldwide. The infection rate is continuing to grow.

I am aware that I changed my response to that question long before the pandemic. For most of the past decade I have responded to that question with, “I am well.” I stoped saying, “I’m feeling fine,” or “I’m doing great,” or even “I’m OK” and replaced it with a true statement of my physical health. “I am well” seems to be an accurate answer to a question about my physical health.

I made the change in my answer during a time of significant grief in our family. One day in April my brother died suddenly. The following January my mother died. In February, our first grandson was born. In March my father-in-law died. In July our daughter was married. The events in our family were coming so fast that I didn’t know how I felt from day to day. I didn’t want to be untrue in the responses I made to the question of how I was doing, but I also did not want to go into all of the details of my grief and joy and adjustment to all of the life changes that occurred in such a short amount of time. So I tried to come up with an answer that, for me, spoke of my physical health, which was good, and left the question of my mental and emotional and spiritual health unanswered.

Then, about four or five years ago, I stopped asking people “How are you?” The question seemed to me to be simply wrong for many of the relationships in my life. What is a young couple with a new child to say to that question when we all are deeply aware that the wife is dying from cancer? “How are you?” seems like a cruel question in the circumstances.

I visited a young man who went through months of treatment for a neurological disorder. He was hospitalized for nearly three full months. During that time I visited him regularly. It didn’t seem appropriate to ask him, “How are you?” We both could see the hospital bed. We both knew that the commode was next to the bed because he couldn’t walk. We both knew how worried he was about his job and his future.

Those are just a couple of examples of why I made a conscious decision to stop asking that question, at least when it is obvious that things are grim.

Instead, I started asking, “How is it with your spirit?”

The question is increasingly important these days as we adjust to life with a pandemic with no end in sight. I was especially aware of the question yesterday. Once again we watched the livestream of the worship service with other members of a congregation that we hope we will be joining. Once again, it was strangely unsatisfying. We are so used to live, in-person worship. We are so used to connecting with people in so many different ways that just watching a computer screen is sadly unsatisfying. I am aware of how much work the leaders of the church are doing to make the weekly broadcast work. I know how hard we were working during the last three months of our careers as we tried to provide spiritual support to a congregation in the midst of a health shutdown. Maybe we were working so hard that we were forgetting to ask the question, “How is it with your spirit?”

There are things that renew my spirit. As has been true all of my life, connections with nature and the power of creation is renewing. We are fortunate to be able to walk outdoors every day. We have to pay attention to the weather and choose the time of day, but we are able to walk next to the creek or through the forest, or along the high ridges. We are able to watch the deer and the birds. It renews our spirits to be together and to be outdoors.

My spirit is renewed by my family. We are able to videoconference with our grandchildren whenever we want. We can send pictures back and forth instantly. Yesterday it was a picture of our 1-year-old grandson who had managed to crawl into the bathtub and start the water dribbling. It reminded me of the day when his mother was a toddler and she crawled into the full bathtub with her brother while she was fully clothed, including her shoes. I realize how much life and energy and enthusiasm our children provide to me. I am reminded how fortunate that we have been to be able to travel to be with our grandchildren. We were in Japan a year ago, marveling at that same grandson and his parents.

I have prayers and scripture and books that strengthen and uphold me and renew my spirit. I am constantly reminded that ours isn’t the first generation of God’s faithful people to have encountered hard times. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

The answer to the question is, “I am well.” We have not contracted Covid-19. Our physical condition is healthy. There is, however, more to the story.

This is a challenging time for churches. As the time of physical distancing continues, there is a continuing need to focus on programs. Virtual Bible studies, visual book groups, virtual discussion groups, special worship services, video editing, keeping up with social media. But a church is more than a list of programs. It is, at its core, all about relationships - relationships that nature the spirit. And those relationships are a continuing challenge.

How is it with your spirit?

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!