Opinion: Finding Meaning

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One Person’s Awakening

Have you heard the World War II saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes”? We may relax when the good times are rolling, but in hard times people do, it seems, turn more to religion. In the pandemic, we’ve had the curious combination of people unable to worship publicly, growing more religious in private. It’s a fascinating trend—the convergence of worship with home.

In the beginning of COVID-19, a study found Google searches on “prayer” skyrocketing. This led to the paper In Crisis, We Pray, by Danish researcher Jeanet S. Bentzen, documenting a 75-country surge of interest in prayer.

The Pew Research Center recently reported on surveys from last summer that 28% of Americans felt the pandemic had “bolstered their religious faith and the faith of their compatriots.” The effect was strongest, at 45%, among those who said religion was “very important” in their lives. Even those who gave less importance to religion reported an 11% increase. Has any sermon ever had such an effect?

Last Sunday, I attended church for the first time in a year. It wasn’t quite the same without the handshakes and hugs, but it was good to be back. The occasion was the confirmation of a cousin’s wife. Her commitment grew out of my cousin’s surprising return to faith after a long period of wandering.

Later, I asked my cousin to tell the story behind his change of heart. He explained how the pandemic caused a reconsideration of his ways. Though he had been away from church for decades, he acknowledged that despite his behavior, he had always been a believer. What was hard, he explained, was to swallow his pride and humbly acknowledge he had made mistakes, terrible mistakes. At this point the tears began to flow.

My cousin met with his minister and began the process of getting himself right with the Lord. It was the start of a long journey. Providence played a part, for at each step the help he needed appeared. The Holy Spirit was a guide and teacher. Grace had a role also, for he found himself able to make changes that had eluded him for years. And finally, there was a moment of redemption, of experiencing forgiveness.

His wife was asked to share her view of the process and she told of how his character had changed, of how increased charity had begun to replace moments of anger. And then of how she was also drawn along, growing in hope and faith. Both seemed to be experiencing God’s promise to the prophet Ezekiel of a “new heart” and a “new spirit.”

It’s been quite a year, this pandemic year. The experience brought to mind the opening verses of the Epistle of James, that we should find joy in our trials for our tests would bring patience and greater faith and finally a more perfect and complete person. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:  [email protected]

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