How to sense the spiritual aspects of life
Recently a team of inspectors visited our hospital. After the meeting, two team members, one older white woman and one middle aged African American woman, came into my office. They admired my models of the War of 1812 frigate USS Constitution and the 1990s US Space Shuttle Endeavor. We talked for a moment, but as they turned to leave, the older woman glimpsed a replica of the ancient Celtic worship and burial site Stonehenge on my table.
“Have you been there?” she inquired, with more than a little excitement in her voice.
“Yes, with my wife and our infant daughter in 1994. How about you?”
“Never, but I would love to go” she replied, both excited and plaintive. She took a deep breath, paused, and looked directly at me. Her face was earnest and anxious, like a novitiate approaching an Archbishop with a question of vital importance.
“Can you feel it? Can you feel the spirituality in that place?”
“Yes,” I replied, instantly knowing what she meant. “You can sense the spirituality at Stonehenge. But there are four things that you have to do in order to feel it.”
Her face lit up, waiting for what would come next.
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What is spiritual power? How do you get it? How do you use it? How do you give the glory to God?
A patient came to me in tears. As a child she had suffered abuse, alcoholism, and even rape. The Christianity she had known was stern and foreboding. Images of the past were hard to overcome, much less erase. Now she was in a good marriage, had a healthy boy, and was in a solid church. Nevertheless, she was fearful and depressed, feeling unable to face most days. Completing the basic tasks of life, such as caring for her infant son and keeping the house, was nearly impossible. In her dark moments, this woman was afraid that she would lose everything she had ever dreamed of, and now had.
She is not alone. One professionally successful acquaintance is going through a divorce, a job change, and struggling with alcohol abuse. Another young woman told me of her troubles with anxiety and perfectionism while she was cleaning my teeth. A middle-aged friend struggles with his self-worth after being without a job for nearly two years. A woman jumped off the roof of her 17-story apartment building.
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Every event in the universe is the result of a chain of causes, some known and some not. Our forebears and third world contemporaries generally see spiritual forces as ultimate, though not proximate, causes, of happenings. Westerners generally do not. Who is right?
Our church recently sent a mission team to Eastern Europe to work with local churches in music, outreach, and Vacation Bible School. As they were returning to the airport, the driver nodded off and the van ran off the road, rolling several times before coming to a stop. Thankfully the injuries were limited to skin lacerations and concussions. As the story of the accident was recounted in church the following Sunday, everyone was shocked, many prayed, and others asked what else they could do to help.
Our family has a young woman from Iran living with us, our “adopted daughter (AD)”, who attends a class of international Christians with many Muslim background believers. On hearing the news, one of the women in that class announced that the accident was caused by spiritual warfare. AD, trained in science, was puzzled. This incident was clearly an accident, caused by a purely natural phenomenon, fatigue. Could this be interpreted as spiritual warfare, or was that interpretation an example of sincere but misguided faith? Driving home that day, AD asked me what I thought.
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