Every evening before I go to bed, I have a routine. I check what the weather is going to be the next day, pick out and pack my outfit, make sure the right clothes for my commute to the pool are ready to be put on, and that my wallet and keys are sitting on top of my swimsuit. I have found I have to do this because if I do not, one of two things happens: I either forget something very important, or I lose something.
At this point in my life, I do not lose things never to be found again. But often after a late night of meetings, I will drop my keys somewhere obscure while not thinking, and voilà! It is a 20-minute search the next morning that often results in giving up and taking the spares, only to find my keys the minute I walk in the door later in the day. Granted, there is instant relief, but only after much frustration.
Often when we lose something, it is because we are not being mindful. We are going through the motions of life without really being connected to what we are doing. Every time I lose my keys, this is true! I find my keys to open the door, but once inside, I am usually onto the next task and not really paying attention to what I am doing at that moment.
When we think about losing faith, often the same issues hold true! Back when I was working on my doctorate, I took a class on writing led by Barbara Brown Taylor. She is an Episcopal priest who is very well known for her spirituality work and her writing. In one class, we were encouraged to go out and hug a tree. This was part of her curriculum for the spirituality class she usually taught, but for us, it was suggested as a possible way to connect and be mindful as we prepared to write.
Now, as a boy, I hugged many trees, but never as a spiritual exercise. I was the fastest tree climber in the family, a very useful skill needed with two older brothers! So I felt silly standing at the base of a tree, remembering my climbing days. But as I hugged the tree and took on the exercise of being present in the moment, I soon began to smell the tree’s green, fresh leaves, feel the rough bark, and watch the little bugs commuting from one ridge of a piece of bark to another.
I began to see the tree in a very new way. It was not just a pretty structure or even a boyhood playground; it was a living thing and something that needed respect. OK, so I guess that I technically became a tree hugger that day, but not in the sense of the environmental activists. I came to know a respect for something that I had taken advantage of throughout my life. In a very real way, I found something that was never really lost, but now my life was more full.
This is true of faith. I often say people lose their faith in God, but God never loses faith in us. When we lose our faith, it is often because we are not paying attention or we are just not being mindful. So when tragedy strikes, it is hard to see where God is present because we have forgotten how to find God. We forgot how to be mindful of the vast ways in which God is present in our lives.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen