“How are you holding the center?” A spiritual mentor recently asked me this question, inviting my reflection on ministering to others, not only during a global pandemic but also painful political division. We are wrestling through a collective dark night of the soul, struggling to discern truth amid deep anxiety and distrust for one another.
In these times, holding the center is more difficult than ever. For me, that phrase means more than political or religious centrism. It names the effort it takes to stay connected to the steadiness of my faith, even as I experience waves of emotion, my own or others’, which threaten to flood me. Holding the center also evokes the sensation of core strength I can feel in the center of my body, keeping my body upright and stable.
Holding the center is the approach I believe my faith asks me to take toward all the others with whom my life intersects. I am to encounter each being “center to center,” as teacher Richard Rohr often puts it, core soul-self to core soul-self, receiving one another each as we are in this moment, without judgment, without calculating how we might benefit or hinder one another.
In my experience, holding the center of faith is not a static stance but an ongoing process, full of movement, fluctuation and adaptation to changing conditions. Faithfulness requires continuous discernment to listen for divine guidance and enter into responsive action. Accepting any spiritual belief is just the initiating moment of a lifelong path of becoming humans who can love God and love all the neighbors God gives us.
“Love God and love your neighbor,” Jesus’ greatest commandments, are the center I seek to hold. They point to the “narrow path,” the most direct, streamlined path to experience the heart of God. Yet, following that way requires my willingness to receive the constant corrections God gives me, by which I return again and again from the wide extremes that tempt me, and focus anew on God’s will and ways.
How are you holding the center? In these days brimming with collective uncertainty, the pull we feel toward extremes of rage, terror, grief and despair, and the temptation to produce words or deeds from these emotions, can be immense. What is the central, stable core of your faith, and what practices help you stay anchored to it? There are many practices, and there are many mentors who can guide you to discover which ones can help you maintain connection to your soul’s compass. Do not hesitate to reach out to wise mentors to guide you on your way.