Living & Growing: Spiritual work has to be lived out in the flesh

We are learning how to close the gaps between our hearts and our lives.

Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Courtesy Photo | Tari Stage Harvey)

Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. (Courtesy Photo | Tari Stage Harvey)

I asked one of the kids at summer lunch what we should do differently tomorrow and his response was “No more social distancing.”

I second that emotion, but alas I’m trying to be thankful that we can be in the same general area and still figure out how to eat with each other. I only stuck one forkful into my mask today.

No great words have come to me to direct us in this time of crisis. I’m struggling, but I just finished two articles in The New Yorker and one talked about “spiritual fatigue” and another about the need for “transformative spiritual work.”

I find it interesting that a magazine that tends to be pretty secular is recognizing that what is wrong with us takes more than a mental or physical fix.

It got me wondering if there are spiritual shock collars to buzz us into bigger hearts and greater compassion. Your spirit is corrupted with pettiness and self-righteousness — BUZZ. Your spirit is torn by anger, envy or hate — BUZZ. Your spirit is tired — BUZZ.

I’m always a little freaked out when people jump on the spiritual train because spiritual work is always deeply bound to carnal work. I’m not sure that one can contemplate your way out of division, anger and violence. Maybe you can, but my guess is that I’d forget all my learning as soon as I had to deal with someone in the flesh who is really annoying. I can manage “serenity now” until I have to be around people.

I was joking about the shock collars, but not about the fact that spiritual work has to be lived out in the flesh. That’s why we share meals with a messy and beautiful crew of kids. They make our hearts big through exercise. We get to gather with such a wide mix of kids and know them and love them as they are.

Yes, we do need to observe social distancing, but we are learning how to close the gaps between our hearts and our lives.

Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. The church holds a free, drop-in Summer Lunch Program for kids ages 18 and younger from noon-1 p.m., Monday to Friday. Questions? Call 789-4093. “Living Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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