Faith takes practice and the practice of faith takes perseverance. As St. James says, “The testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (1:3) I get all of this and yet the practice of my faith can be so darn frustrating. The lyrics from Bruce Springsteen come to mind, “One step up and two steps back”. (One Step Up)
Like the kids in my own family, sometimes I just don’t get it. “The habits should have kicked in by now,” I tell myself, when I get frustrated as I try to carve out time for daily prayer. One would think that a Christian, almost 40 years old, would be running on all cylinders. Maybe yes and maybe no.
Why does this bother me at all? Seriously, very few people have daily prayer times if we stopped long enough to ask them. I should be happy that I’m trying to pray on a regular basis.
Or should I?
Should sporadic spiritual practice be good enough for God? Does He expect that every single day is marked with rosaries and Bible reading? Come on God, isn’t there a place for slackers in the spiritual life?
One person who was far from a slacker was Blessed Theresa of the slums of Calcutta. She once said, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” When you look at it this way, it could be that effort matters as much as the momentum that one builds up in his/her spiritual life. That’s anti-slacker material if I ever heard it.
“God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try"
So here’s my formula for avoiding slackerdom in the spiritual life:
1. Try to pray every day. Quietly, without fanfare, including the practice of journaling when possible. Try and then after you mess up or just forget, try again.
2. Read your Bible. A little a day goes an awful long way. A “pericope” is a short snippet of text. Find some and ponder it by sitting with it in your head.
3. Talk out loud to God. Every time I do this I’m reminded that faith is about relationship above all else. You’ll feel funny at first but trust me, this works- big time. If you can get comfortable talking to God, you may find that God ends up talking to you!
4. Seek perspective from wise and holy people. Use a spiritual director, cherish your holy friends and ask their advice. There's little that they haven't seen in life.
Let’s be honest, being a person of faith takes work. When we hit the speedbumps and feel less than motivated, it can be tempting to quit or get down on ourselves. Still, it’s important to remember that we’re in this first for God and second for ourselves.
If you’re feeling like a slacker, that’s the perfect time to go “back to work” on the four disciplines laid out above and beg for God to bolster your resolve.
Which of the four disciplines speak most to your spiritual life?
Photo courtesy of RR