June 21, 2006

The Project

My experience of the trying to live a spiritual life is one of cycles and undulation. Sometimes I feel like I'm praying well, making an effort to discern attentively, and working on becoming more loving and less violent. Other times I'm distracted from the quiet speech of the Spirit, lazy about prayer, and mechanical in my religious obligations.

This has been going on since a few days after my baptism!

I used to think it just meant I needed to work harder, to put in more effort. And that's not a bad inspiration to have. It's what we Christians call ascesis, what our Muslim sisters and brothers call jihad, what the Buddhists call right effort.

But now I wonder if there isn't also a deeper meaning. Perhaps we experience an undulation in fervor and laziness, in devotion and dryness in order to teach us that the spiritual life is not a project or task like other things on our "things to do" list. Our ascesis doesn't accomplish our spiritual life but merely prepares our inner ground for God's activity.

After all, it is God's work in us. Our prayer life is not something we do in the strict sense. It is the Spirit who prays in us, praying to the Father through the Son, into whose life we have been adopted as sons and daughters in the Son.

1 comment:

Steph Bachman said...

I'm not so religious, but I think the cycles of which you speak are normal. Almost like gardening, in which you toil to prepare the ground, add the plants, care for them, change them, add stuff to the soil, add new plants, etc. and suddenly you realize that the "goal" at the end is not the garden, but the gardening. So, while fruitful prayer, contemplation, etc are good goals, perhaps it is the struggle to do them that is the real goal.