Time for a spiritual ‘reboot’

Time for a spiritual ‘reboot’

It’s “time to get our lives back” many people say, to “get back to normal.” 

No doubt we are ready to get out of the house, those of us lucky enough to have one. But are we really so eager for things to return to “normal”? Perhaps we should take a moment to stop and re-consider that “normal.” 

In a remarkable interview with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, Pope Francis said:

What we are living now is a place of metanoia (conversion)… So let’s not let it slip from us…

God has allowed the world to come to a stop, the Pope says, not so that we can just get back to normal. Rather, he wants us to change our approach to the world around us. The secret, he says, is in “slowing down” to rediscover the “contemplative dimension” of life. 

In other words, we need a spiritual reboot.

The word “reboot” originated in the world of technology. When our electronic devices begins to malfunction or exhibit glitches, often the most effective solution is simply to restart them. Having entered the vernacular, the word “reboot” is now applied to everything from movies franchises to brands to business ventures, anything that is “malfunctioning,” so-to-speak, and in need of a fresh start. 

The Pope sees a world that has forgotten how to contemplate the beauty of what is around them, the world and its people, especially the ones who tend to be invisible in society, those “thrown away.” 

And so we have come to a “stop” for a reason. We have stopped here in order to learn how to contemplate. 

What is this “contemplative dimension”? Many of us have likely been discovering it without even realizing it. Slowing down has given us more time to enjoy our families and to appreciate God’s creation. But slowing down can also be difficult. Have you felt a little bit bored? Depressed? Anxious? These feelings were probably there before this all started. This time of shut-down has just allowed them to come to the surface.

A Twitter user commented:

The truth is: this isn’t just “staying home and watching Netflix”: It’s abandonment wounds. It’s attachment issues. It’s relational conflict… It’s existential dread. It’s overwhelm of grief. It’s lack of purpose. It’s fear of death.

This is what happens when we stop and unplug. It is difficult, but necessary… a downtime of grace and truth.

For me, this time has allowed many truths to surface: The truth of my reliance on work and accomplishment for my sense of self-worth. The truth of my almost complete inability to unplug from TV and devices to make room for internal silence. The truth of my compensating for the uncertainty of our times by filling my head with news and opinions. 

In our American culture as a whole, we are seeing the truth of how dependent we are on our “stuff”—our material wealth—and how far we are willing to go not to lose it. 

Our glitch is a flight from reality, from what seems mundane and beneath us into a glitzy fantasy world where we are all stars and experts and heroes. As a church we are often guilty of turning Jesus’ command to love one another into just another industry, consuming ourselves with slick productions and lofty projects and forgetting to simply make time to connect with one another.

And now, like actors without the dramatic lighting and stage makeup, we get to see the fearful truth. This is the contemplative movement, the Pope says. “Go down into the underground, and pass from the hyper-virtual, fleshless world to the suffering flesh of the poor.” 

In other words, in the underground of our consciousness, where we have been hiding from the truth of who we are, some others are waiting as well: The people we forgot. Maybe it is the person on the street corner. Maybe it’s our kids. 

Those whom the pope says were once merely “part of the landscape” become “pietas, which point towards God and towards our neighbor.” The truth turns out to be terrifying, yes, but also indescribably beautiful. The suffering-yet-glorious flesh of Christ is in those people, and it’s in us. We, tragically, forgot to notice. Let’s not make that mistake again.

Our contemplative reboot is about stopping so that we can learn that all that stuff we thought we needed, we really don’t. God thinks you are pretty cool the way you are, without all the lighting and makeup. And he wants you to see others the same way. That’s a new normal worth a shutting down for.

(Connect with Fr. Spencer on Twitter @FrSpencer_CMC)