I stumbled across this article on Relevant Magazine’s website: How to Keep Your Faith in Seminary. About halfway through I began to realize all of the areas of my own spiritual life that need to be worked on. I need to spend more time in solitude doing things like prayer, meditation and devotions/study. Other areas I need to work on are fasting, sabbath, and confession. I’m sure there are more I could come up with, but that’s a good enough to do list for now. Of course having a list is important, but just as important is having an idea of how you are going to accomplish what is on the list.
Time in solitude, and the tasks therein, is a difficult one… because I need solitude. I’ve tried being in solitude in public, which works fine… until people realize they want to interact with you. It’s hard to get away. I can get away from my electronics just fine, my problem is getting away from people. I can get away at home, but when I’m away from home for 9 hours of my, at most, 16 waking hours, I don’t want to. I enjoy spending time with my wife, and I’m sure kids will later factor into that.
So that leaves me with trying to get away while away from home, which means trying to get away at work or at school. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at getting away at work. I have tried, but often times it’s a fruitless endeavor because I get sporadically called upon to do tasks and irregularly have a chunk of time long enough to both complete the tasks and get away. School is more structured; I know when I am and am not free. Unfortunately, homework is not as structured; however, if I try, I might be able to make it so. I just haven’t all-out tried for a full semester yet. And that, honestly, seems like a huge task.
I supposed that’s why they call it a “discipline”, because you really do have to put your all into it and be disciplined. I’ve put in a lot, just not all. A lot, though, gives out when sleep and leisure provide desired and needed reprieve from overworking one’s self due to a haphazard schedule.
Hopefully my idealism is realized here, because when I was successful in doing this in the past it was very rewarding and, though not nearly as restful and relaxing as nothingness and sleep, far more energizing. Prayer, meditation and devotional time do that.
For the others…
Fasting is one of those things I have never done. To be honest I don’t know where to begin or what I should be doing going into it, much less what I should be getting out of it. I hear good things all the time, but I am, unfortunately, a foodie and have a high resting metabolic rate… so the idea of starving myself seems like torture and when I don’t eat for 5+ hours it is torture.
So maybe I do need to begin fasting…
Sabbath rest is another thing that I just need to do. It’s not a difficult task; unfortunately, I just end up being lazy and sloth instead of resting purposefully. Probably because I burn myself out the rest of the week and it just spills over to Sunday. Unfortunately, I never feel rested by Monday morning and I often feel burdened with a mountain of tasks to complete coupled with unrealized pursuits.
Confession… Frankly, this one didn’t cross my mind until I saw it on a list of spiritual disciplines and then the notion pierced my soul. It didn’t pierce my soul because I have deep dark secrets that I am hiding and they just need to come out. It pierced my soul because I long for deep connection with my wife.
The cycle of life is one of highs and lows and, as it stands now, it’s a low, rough patch for her. Not an unusual one, she’s younger than I am and I remember when I went through the same thing at her age: Recently graduated from college; trying to make it with the pay you can get without being able to afford the nice things that you kind of need, but kind of don’t; entering into a cynical stage by realizing the drawbacks of institutionalized religion and the employment field after being letdown by both far too frequently; formerly close and steady relationship dynamics drastically changing, etc.
Ultimately it’s growing up and the finalization of her identity, I’m on the back end of it and she’s in the thick of it. You’re lost until you’re sure of where you stand. My problem is I now know how to handle what I was going through, but I don’t know how to handle it when she’s going through it and I’m on the outside. Further complicating it, she’s different than I. I want her to be external with her inner workings because that’s how I work, but she’s not like that. I externally monologue, she doesn’t; it’s internal and, from what I gather, it’s not a monologue and more like a seizure… or something… The point being, is that before she can tell me what’s going on in her head, she has to make sense of all the emotional and mental spazzing and tossing first.
Because I don’t know how to deal with this I often feel disconnected and withdrawn, or she does. It leads to a strained relationship at times because you feel distant. So my goal here is to be more open and out with her with what’s going on inside with me. Not necessarily frustration with the relational dynamics, because we are both aware that that is occurring, but going beyond the courteous parlor talk of daily life. I think this will require I spend more time away from typical daily life and begin having a more dynamic life in solitude… for this reason she needs it just as much as I do. However, just as important is to be open with her by opening my presence to her without expecting or wanting much in return.
That may not be confession by definition, but I think it captures the spirit of the term. Maybe that’s the going to have to be the idea with fasting… At any rate, the idea behind all of this is to exert myself to go beyond the typical, to work toward life beyond my temporal, daily existence. I’m sure the more I grow into the disciplines I’ll have to realize new ways to take me beyond the typical. But for now I need to do some improvements.