How do we practice faith, hope, and love? We are living in the times of Covid-19, quarantine, social distancing, insert undesirable situation here. These times have been described as disruptive and uncertain; I would call them disorienting and I know that we need hope during these times. I have noticed in the culture around me and in myself that this time is marked by fear, frustration, loneliness, and a myriad of other feelings and experiences. It is my “hope” that these words will be helpful and useful in some way as we seek to follow God, who is Love, through the journey of faith, especially in our present time of living through a pandemic. It is my prayer that we all continue to grow in faith, hope, and love because we are truly all in this together.
So what does practicing faith, hope, and love look like? Perhaps it looks like setting an intention, the practice of choosing, and daily reflection. When these actions are grounded in the Christian contemplative practices by which we come to know our true identity as the beloved, choosing to respond to life’s circumstances in faith, hope, and love becomes a natural part of our authentic life.
Our practice begins with intention. There is power in intention. This is why we are drawn to start each new year by naming our intentions as New Year’s resolutions. We declare our intention for something to be different in our lives in the coming year. It is a hope, a dream, a goal, an intention. If we are to practice faith, hope, and love we need to intend to respond to every circumstance that comes our way with faith, hope, and love. I suggest that we begin our days by praying a quick prayer of intention to set our hearts and minds on faith, hope, and love. That prayer could look something like this.
Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit your word tells us that faith, hope, and love are the things that remain, so today I pray that I would respond, with Your gracious help, to the circumstances of today in faith, hope, and love. Amen.
After intending to respond to life in faith, hope, and love we can practice choosing faith, hope, and love as we engage with and respond to the circumstances of the day. Before we engage in an activity such as joining a zoom meeting, or working on a project, or teaching our children, we can set our thoughts on faith, hope, and love and pray for God’s help before going into each activity. We can also notice in each instance the ways we accept and the ways we resist the invitation to respond in faith, hope, and love.
When a circumstance comes up and we notice the beginning of a fear response, we can pause, acknowledge the fear, and choose to respond with faith instead. Remembering in those moments that God is present and will help. We can simply receive the grace of the moment.
When we feel helpless and hopeless, we can choose to have hope in these circumstances, choosing to see the best in people and the world, and trusting that God is redeeming all things.
When we are tempted to respond selfishly to a situation, we can choose to be like Jesus and die to self by choosing to love the other person.
We can practice choosing faith, hope, and love as we start an activity and as we respond to circumstances.
We also grow in faith, hope, and love as we reflect on our responses throughout the day, remembering that this is practicing not perfection. We will not always get it right, but we can continue to practice faith, hope, and love and grow in it. We can seek forgiveness when we haven’t responded well to people and God, and we can set our intention to do better in the future.
Finally, we can continue the Christian contemplative practices that ground our identity in God as the beloved. It is from this identity that we respond authentically in faith instead of fear, hope instead of despair, and love instead of selfishness. In our practice of silence we learn to be in the presence of God, who is love. We may even adapt our prayer of Examen, asking the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts as we reflect on the day, noticing the ways in which we responded faithfully, hopefully, and lovingly and the ways in which we resisted by responding out of a false identity. We can resolve to make amends where necessary and seek the grace to look forward in faith, hope, and love to the day to come.
I'm pleased to once again welcome Shawn Smith as a collaborator and a friend in wrestling with these concepts and in writing and revising this blog.