A couple years ago I bought a well-used snow blower at an auction, and it has really come in handy this year. There’s only one problem; it works well for about 10 minutes and then the engine dies out. Even when I try to restart it, it won’t run consistently unless I wait for it cool down. Last week, after an overnight snowfall, I decided to seek out more information about the problem, so, of course, I “Googled” it.
What I found out was that the gas cap was too tight. It wasn’t letting any air into the system which caused a vacuum inside the engine, forcing it to die. The advice was to drill a hole in the gas cap so that fresh air could get in. Which I did, and I spent the next half-hour joyously clearing my driveway of snow.
As I was working, I began to think about how something as simple as letting fresh air into a system can make life so much easier. Then, I thought about other systems that might need fresh air. Sometimes I wonder if our spiritual lives could use some fresh air. So, what is the equivalent of drilling a hole in our spiritual gas cap?
Well, maybe we’re performing rituals which have lost their meaning or holding onto circumstances which are just not getting us any closer to God. How about if we drop some of those and open ourselves to different approaches to see if they make relating to God easier, bring us greater joy, or offer healing for our broken relationships?
We can read our scriptures more consistently and with the mind of a beginner being open for the words to speak new meaning into us. I’m convinced that if more of us read scripture in this way, we would wind up with pretty similar ideas about how we should see it working in our lives.
We can read books from new authors or experience art from unfamiliar artists. And we can write or make art ourselves. In doing so, we can search for messages that, in spirit and words, reflect our new understanding of scripture and hold the promise of new life, love and wholeness.
Of course, spirituality’s center and religion’s basic function is to be present to God. Worshiping alone and with people we know and love is essential. It is time for acknowledging and enjoying God’s presence with us. We can also explore new styles of prayer, which include not only talking, but also waiting and listening with God. Many people experience God through simply gardening or spending time in the woods.
How about finding new ways of engaging in and beautifying the world around us? This could include volunteering with a community non-profit, but it could also mean learning to cook more nutritiously, writing poetry, taking and sharing photographs, refinishing furniture, writing letters, growing plants or recycling more.
Both spirituality and snow blowers work best if we learn what they need to function better. And, letting in fresh air can be just the thing you need. Give yourself permission to change for the better. As always, your God will be with you.
Rev. Mark Reed is a United Methodist deacon serving at MTSO and worshipping with the community at William Street UMC.