Another Gray Day

My mood is definitely affected by the weather.  One gray day after another can be hard.  Of course there are some good things about gray days.  They may be warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer; and they provide one of the conditions for things to grow.  A gray day also invites rest and reflection.

But when I am really looking forward to a break in the heat or the cold and enjoying more time outdoors, the gray is especially challenging.  How do we deal with the gloom, low spirits, and lack of energy that can accompany a succession of gray days or a period of spiritual dryness?  Of course every situation is different and every personality distinct.  But here are some possibilities.

Remember that this period will not last forever.  The weather will change and so will you.  Don’t fight the gloom.  Accept it for what it is and find its gifts for you.  Spend time resting, reading, praying in silence.  Perhaps it is a time to dig deep within yourself to find what is going on inside.  Maybe there is a lament that deserves to be heard.  Or questions, frustrations, doubts, or dreams that need the light of day.  If nothing else, it is a time to cultivate patience, faithful waiting, and persistence.

Stability of heart is the Benedictine vow that Joan Chittister highlights for times like these.  It is holding fast to one’s commitment made in clearer times—to the life of the soul, faithfulness to the community of which one is a part, and trust and perseverance in seeking God.  “Stability of heart tells us that the prayer, and the work, and the service, and the study, and the reading and the believing are worth it, even when all of it has never felt more useless, more pointless, more empty of the God we had hoped to find there.” (Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart, chapter 20.)

Queries:

What gifts have you found in gray days or periods of spiritual dryness?

What are the core values to which you want to remain committed?

Prayer:

Maintain your usual prayer practices, even if you wonder about their value.

For further reflection:

“[T]he way we deal with whatever happens to us on the outside will depend entirely on what we have become on the inside.  Wherever we have fixed our hearts, whatever it is to which we have given them, will determine the way we experience all that is happening to us now.”  (Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart, chapter 20.)

“Sing and rejoice, ye children of the Day and of the Light, for the Lord God is at work in this thick night of Darkness that may be felt . . .” (George Fox, 1663.)

Heaven

As someone of a certain age, I find that pondering about what happens when we die is natural. For some the answer is about going to heaven. A widespread belief is that heaven is the place you go after you die if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Some would add the assumption that it is where you go if you have been good enough. For some, this picture gives life and hope. For others, this understanding seems too pat, simply unbelievable, or meaningless.

I think there are other faithful ways to think about heaven. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6: 9-13). The yearning is for the two realms to be one—one where God’s ways are fully and completely present, where God’s “commandments” are in our hearts so that we choose to live them and live in harmony with all—the beloved community. God reigns–not human rulers, who are caught up in the ways of power and dominance.

Early Friends were among other religious people who were trying to find a way to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. George Fox realized that the peaceable kingdom couldn’t come through violence and war. He came to know experientially that our hearts need to be changed, and that Christ is present and available to teach us– to love, to live in harmony, to follow God’s ways. Heaven is not confined to what happens to us when we die, or where we go after this life. As we come to know that life and power that tenders our hearts and changes our ways (this is different from intellectual assent to a set of beliefs), heaven—eternal and everlasting life—begins now.

When we are “in heaven,” all that is good in us rises up. All that hurts and destroys is ended. There is oneness and unity, creation is sustained. God dwells with us and in us. Because we know it now in moments, and as a promise, we hope that in time we will know it in full. That hope, held deeper and deeper, changes our lives now and forever. Death, then, I think, is a continued moving into love.

Queries:

What do you think about heaven and how does that impact how you live now?

When have you experienced that sense of oneness with all, of being loved completely, of God dwelling within, of being transformed?

Prayer:

In your imagination allow a vision of heaven to rise up. Take that into your heart and dwell there.

For further reflection:

“I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts . . .” (See Jeremiah 31: 31-34).

“Now I was come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the paradise of God. All things were new, and all the creation gave another smell unto me than before, beyond what words can utter.” –George Fox, Journal, 1647