Truth, power, and love beyond my spiritual malaise by Tim Kim


As someone who started a church community for millennials with complicated feelings about religion, I spend most of my time in a world of ambivalence and ambiguity. We ask questions at Root + Branch. A lot of them. Some may be frustrated that we don't give enough answers.

But if you looked closely, you'd see that the entirety of the enterprise is built upon an unequivocal belief that it is good and necessary for us human animals to tap into things beyond the circumstantial and impermanent minutia that are our own individual lives. Drawing closer to God, being spiritually grounded, cultivating a personal and communal practice of faith, - whatever you want to call it - ultimately means coming alive alongside a truth, a love, a power, that is being expressed across all time and contingencies.

It is in view of this that I find myself trying to figure out how I've come to feel a palpable drift away from God. These two pandemic years have felt like a capitulation to entropy. My spiritual order, fallen into disarray.

There is a temptation in me to equate hope with good times. That may sound odd, since hope is often thought of as the one thing needed during trials and tribulations. But I am not talking about a hope that says things will get better. Rather, I am talking about the kind of hope that says this world can actually become in reality what we dare to imagine. In Christian parlance, we say: for the world to be redeemed and made new. It is much easier to inhabit, feel, and pass on such hope when your political candidate has won, or when your communities are flourishing, or when there is no global pandemic. 

I imagine that this temptation is quite common, as is the truth that many of us have either lost this sort of hope or have at the very least felt it chipped away with every new variant, every grotesque video of a racially-motivated murder, every photo of a screaming maskless person at a grocery store, every cynical response from our appointed leaders.

In the earlier days of the pandemic, I aspired, as I suppose many of us did, to become some sort of ideal version of myself. Putting aside the album that didn't get written and the new morning routine that never got off the ground, I wanted to give more attention to my spiritual life. In the discipline of my daily meditations and walks around the neighborhood, I imagined being shot like a rocket into higher consciousness.

The poet Christian Wiman describes hope as "a condition of your soul, not a response to the circumstance in which you find yourself." My spiritual malaise didn't set in simply because I failed to adopt the disciplined life of a monk. It won't be cured by suddenly doing so, either. I can, however, remind myself that I walk alongside a truth, power, and love that have been working long before March 2020, and will continue to do so, to make real what we dare to imagine.

Pastor Tim Kim is Co-Founder of Root + Branch Church