I sometimes marvel at my consistency. On a day filled with self-reflection like the one I experienced yesterday, I realized that once again, I was falling into repetitive bad behaviors that were hampering my faith journey. The last time I felt like this was just before Lent of this year when I was overworked, worn out and struggling to find peace. With the help of prayer, Eucharistic adoration, Reconciliation and caring Catholic friends I pulled back from the cliff and got back on the right path. Although not as severe this time, I see myself edging closer to the proverbial cliff and I am trying to apply the brakes. Do you ever experience this problem?
One of the supposed benefits of getting older is wisdom. I am not sure I am any wiser, but I have tried to learn from my experiences. It occurred to me yesterday as I wrote this that I needed to identify the challenges and bad behaviors that were causing me so many problems if I want to avoid getting to this place in the future. Here is a partial list of how I often act on my “worst spiritual behavior”:
- I have an iPhone addiction and struggle to put it down.
- I work hard and get things done quickly, but I only wind up creating more space on the calendar that I fill with other projects.
- Leisure is not in my vocabulary when I am on my worst spiritual behavior.
- The work itself becomes more important than the goal, which should be to glorify Christ, provide for my family and be a good steward in the community.
- I make excuses for missing Daily Mass and the weeks pile up between visits to our priests for Reconciliation.
- Instead of finding quiet moments to pray, I do it on the run and am usually going somewhere.
- Instead of being salt and light in the world, I get absorbed into the secular culture and don’t reflect my Christ-inspired joy to anyone.
- My ministry work becomes burdensome and I feel weighted down instead of grateful for the opportunity to serve our Lord.
- I try to be in charge when I should be surrendering control to Christ.
Each of these bad behaviors adversely affects my faith, my relationship with my children and my marriage. My health suffers. I become the “friend who is too busy” and am not as accessible to others as I should be. My attempts at spiritual reading are impeded by either too much work or fatigue and I certainly don’t feel like writing. Most importantly, my relationship with Christ suffers because I have foolishly placed countless barriers between us. Enough is enough.
A friend once told me that we all struggle in our spiritual lives and it is a good thing to recognize it and absolutely keep trying to grow as a Catholic. I believe this is true and realize I have experienced growth over the years. Writing this openly about my struggles is certainly a sign of growth, I hope! I have a tendency to make things more complicated than they should be and I am going to focus on the theme of simplification in the days ahead to break out of the cycle I am in. Here is my simple checklist to help me return to “spiritual wellness” over the next few months and get back on track:
- Pray an hour a day, with at least 30 minutes in silence. The first prayer of every day will be a simple thank you to our Lord for the blessings I have received.
- Spend more electronic-free quality time with my family where we read, walk, ride bikes or play games together.
- Devote more time and attention to my wonderful wife. I will be “present” and not distracted when we are together.
- Go to at least one daily mass a week.
- Spend at least 30 minutes a day reading my favorite Catholic authors or Scripture.
- Have coffee or lunch with a good friend once a week and seek feedback on how I am doing…and fraternal correction if needed.
- Walk/run 30 minutes each day or hit my treadmill in bad weather. Pray a rosary while exercising.
- Find quiet time for myself, especially on the weekends, just to relax, think, read or whatever…
- Find a silent retreat that I will commit to attend before the end of the year.
- I will go to Reconciliation every three weeks until the end of the year.
We are called to be in the world but not of the world and recognize that our ultimate goal is Heaven. The lure of our fast-paced world and our own spiritual lukewarmness can easily lead us astray if we are not diligent and careful. I am certain that I will slip up many times on my journey, but Christ will always lead me back if I ask for His help. I am a busy guy with a lot on my plate, but all of that is meaningless if I am not pursuing a life of holiness and working hard to help me, my family and everybody I know get to Heaven.
I am starting to recognize my worst spiritual behaviors and with the help of the Holy Spirit I am working to overcome them.
How about you?
Randy Hain is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which will be published by Liguori Publications at the end of this year. The Catholic Briefcase is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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