I carried a briefcase with files, books and documents whenever I traveled to meetings away from home before my files resided in the digital cloud.
Prominently paper-clipped inside my briefcase on a small piece of paper was a word: Soar.
The word represented a goal, a challenge and a call to trust from God. It was a risky word, and, in the context of the power of the spirit of Jesus, it was a countercultural word.
If you have been awake to the news and the discomforts of our times, you know we are living through a season in time when it is hard for many to soar.
These are times of personal difficulty and national conflict. These are times of wars and rumors of wars.
These are times, to paraphrase a U.S. Founding Father, that can try all of our souls. They are especially trying as people personally and professionally invested in the church of Jesus in the United States.
That was the feeling that first hit me when I read the lead headline of an email newsletter I received from a thoughtful, spiritual institution – “‘Religion as usual’ is now a thing of the past” – and it was right.
All the handwringing about the recent Pew Research Center report on the decline of Christianity in the U.S. would tell you that. The status of the nation’s culture will tell you that, too.
I am not referring to the indicators of morality that usually accompany preachers and their complaints.
The reality of U.S. church experience of the past several decades shows that far too many Christians think far too little about what it means to actually be a Christian.
Christianity still may be the default position for a majority of citizens, but the way people act will tell you what we as the nation truly value.
For example, the rancor of public debate, the distrust of those who differ in race, creed, religion, ethnicity, you name it, and the priorities of power, consumerism and celebrity as opposed to Jesus’ way of humility, kindness, gentleness and grace.
It has been noted that the puddle-thin spiritual practices of too many Christians have helped turn away many who are searching sincerely for meaning, healing and purpose in their lives.
This is a fair statement, as our parochial attitudes and self-centered practices turn away those we have said we want to reach: those who are looking for God.
We live in times that call for robust faith and actually living like Jesus says and does.
That is a tall order, but we cannot expect a revival or renewal of the culture without a revival and renewal of God’s people doing God’s risky business.
This means we must actively pursue loving our enemies, doing good to those who persecute us, praying for God’s will in heaven to be done on earth, and living in faith that is deeper than the security of our retirement plans.
These are times to lay aside “every weight that slows us down” (Hebrews 12:1), to keep what is essential and to jettison what is not, and to open hearts and minds, doors and windows, both real and metaphorical, so that the spirit might enable us to soar.
Or as a Baptist humorist-hero of my generation, Grady Nutt, once mashed up, we need to learn and embrace a new word: “Soarunafraid.”
Fear not. These are times for adventurers – of every age and generation – willing to pray, trust and go with the Lord Jesus, even though the road will likely lead us through our Golgothas, as individuals and churches, on the way to resurrections we truly need.
These are times for those who will trust and be willing to put it all on the line in love and service to the visions of God, empowered by the Spirit, to soar.
Pastor of Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia.