The Beauty (and Difficulty) of the Spiritual Life

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The Florida sun, that glorious yellow light, fans across the hardwood floors.  It spills over and under the curtains and keeps me company as I begin my morning routine.  I slip into the Lotus position, knees low and back straight.  I place my Bible, the one that my mother gifted me during my freshman year of college, on my lap.  I take a deep breath and roll the kinks out of my neck.  I light my candle in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God is so good.

I, however, am less good.  At least, I’m not really as good as the girl in whatever fantasy is described above.  First of all, our house does not have any curtains.  On occasion, it does have dresses hanging to dry from the window frames.  Same difference.  Second, I only got the Bible after I signed up for a freshman retreat and realized I didn’t pack one.  My mother purchased it from Barnes and Noble and overnight-ed it to the university.  As for “my candle,” I’m really referring to the six or seven, half-used candles I’ve carefully collected and then carelessly scattered over the house.  My prayer time is not pretty.  Worse yet, my prayer time is not regular.  Despite my best intentions (and my vivid fantasies), I often fail to spend even 15 minutes a day exclusively, quietly with God.

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The imperfections of my prayer life are partly because I am lazy and undisciplined.  Partly because I have misdirected priorities.  And, partly because prayer is, often, really, really boring.  Plus, when it’s not really boring, it’s really challenging.  Prayer is not coffee; it doesn’t give you an immediate energy boost when you consume it or a crushing migraine when you don’t.  It is not a brownie that delights your senses.  It is not a TV show, distracting and addicting.  If it is anything, prayer is marathon training minus the decreased waist line.  Alas, if prayer is anything, it is grueling.

There’s a reason the experts tell us beginners to have grace with ourselves.  We’re going to fail.  A lot.  Several times over.  And fail badly.  We’re going to fail so much that we’ll count it a victory when we develop a pattern of failure (2 good weeks; 3 bad weeks; 2 good weeks; 3 bad weeks).  So, why not just throw in the towel, put away the scattered candles, and spend the extra 15 minutes picking out curtains?

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Because I believe that God, in His limitless love, created me.  Me.  And my creator, in His infinite love, wants to spend time with just me.  Me.  I pray for the same reason you throw a birthday party for a friend, send your mom flowers on Mother’s Day, or go to a romantic dinner with your partner.  Because time spent is love spread.  Because setting time apart says, “I love you.  Thank you for loving me too.”  It may not always be an exciting or sexy love, but it is a patient and steady love.  It is a love that fills me with peace and enables me to offer peace to others.  

So, I return to my quiet time with God again.  No matter how much time has passed since I last visited.  I wake up a little early or set aside a few minutes during lunch or step away for a bit after dinner.  I gather my hair, either tangled from sleep or greasy from the day, into a ponytail.  I rummage through my various candles and find one that speaks to me.  I run the match across the dull strip of the matchbox until it explodes into light.  I take a deep breath and groan as it comes out.  I’ve been carrying so much weight.  Then, in an act of great, grueling love, I sit still and listen. It’s not pretty, but it is beautiful.

 

10 thoughts on “The Beauty (and Difficulty) of the Spiritual Life

    1. Thank you, Liz, for these words of encouragement! My faith and this blog were very much shaped by knowing wise and wonderful women like you.

  1. My understanding is Christ taught us how to pray. The rest is written by men. I believe how we live our lives is a prayer to god. Obeying his commandments may be difficult but living his laws obediently is prayer in itself.. that is really all he ask.. you are right it is difficult a lot of the time. Yet a very simple map, the Ten Commandments, confession, the Eucharist, lead to paradise.

    1. I love your comment, “how we live our lives is a prayer to god.” How true!!! As you pointed out, the church and sacraments encourage and support our efforts to lead lives that honor God and God’s will. Thank you for these thoughtful insights!

  2. I have found that the more I try to make prayer an ongoing, throughout-the-day, part of my life (like eating, getting ready for the day, doing house chores, etc.), prayer seems to come more easily for me. But it does take practice of focusing on my relationship with the Lord, listening for Him and sharing my heart with Him. Yes, I sometimes get distracted, but there is always something to bring me back to Him when I read a Bible verse online or that’s pinned on the fridge, a worship song on the radio or a CD. Life is not perfect, that is for sure. That is where God’s grace is shown to us!! Praise the Lord!

    1. Praise the Lord, indeed! As you say, Ann, life’s imperfections are opportunities for God’s grace! I love the idea of posting Bible verses around the house or playing the Christian radio station throughout the day. These are such good reminders of God’s presence in our daily lives. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences.

  3. “Because time spent is love spread.” I love this! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our relationship with God is so like our relationship with a spouse…we have to spend time in the relationship to nurture it. Thanks for the thoughtful post today!

    1. What a beautiful analogy, Kathy! If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the Book of Hosea. It beautifully describes how our relationship with God is similar to a marital relationship. Like you said, we must “nurture” our relationship with God. As with any relationship, it requires time and attention.

  4. I love this! I can identify so well with you. I try to have a regular time and then I let thing push it aside, but I always manage to come back and He always welcomes me. And this: “It’s not pretty, but it is beautiful.” AMEN

    Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #TestimonyTuesday.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Gayl! How lucky are we to have a God who always welcomes us back!

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