Sunday, 29 October 2017

Day 10: baby steps

A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus.  “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” 

Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” 

The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’”

 “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

I was pondering this passage earlier this week, trying to dive deeper into it. Because, you know, it sounds so lovely: loving God completely, loving your neighbour as yourself. Yes, so lovely, I tell myself nodding my head. I loved it so much I had it written on my classroom wall last year. But, if we want to move from the sentimental notion of how wonderful it is to love God and our neighbour, and actually buckle down and start acting with love towards God and our neighbour, all of a sudden I realize how sorely inadequate I am at actually loving Him.

If you're like me -- a head-dwelling thinker type -- you can easily start to believe that all your thinking about God and love is the same as actually loving God.  Thinking is important, of course! Diving deep into prayer and spending reflecting on Scripture and spiritual reading to discern what God is calling you to do in this day is so necessary.  But, again, if you're like me, you might be too inclined to rest in those thoughts and not actually make a resolution for action and put it into practice.  I know this and yet I fail to do this over and over again.

God asks us to love Him with everything, true, but He specifically says to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So since I've been discerning so much about working my determination muscles, I asked myself, how can I practice determination in how I use that heart, soul, mind, and strength I've been given?  

I can't expect to receive the martyr's crown if I don't have the courage to speak up for God with my own loved ones.  Little acts of virtue beget the virtue itself.  Likewise, I can't reasonably expect to love God with ALL of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, if I can't do it in part.  

So, while I certainly don't consider my following suggestion as an end in itself, I do humbly offer it as a practical way to begin disciplining all of our self to His service.

Consider the heart. Is anger, irritability, impatience a far-too frequent part of my day? What parent hasn't confessed one or all of those things (like, every single time)? What is one concrete resolution I can make to curb that?  For example, if there is one particular trigger that sets you off, resolve to work on that one little thing.

Consider the mind.  You're a smarty pants. Are you using that brain for good? Are you wasting way too much time in that vortex called Facebook? (Guilty!) Could you be using that time to grow in more, ahem, important knowledge instead? Could you commit to spiritual reading or taking a course that will challenge you to think and express yourself more cogently?   Choose something and just do it.

Consider your soul. How's your prayer life going? Doesn't matter if you're enjoying it or not, but are you showing up? Are you praying every day no matter what? If you're struggling to be consistent, my confessor suggested a few things to make this a habit that sticks: pick a time and place (doesn't have to be a clock time; maybe as soon as the baby begins his nap is more realistic than 7:00 a.m. would be); choose something you can reasonably do in one place at one time.  Don't commit to a 20 decade rosary every day if you're only certain you can find fifteen minutes of silence to pray.  That doesn't mean you can't work up to that, but if you're struggling to establish a routine, start small, but do start!

Consider your body.  Does this need strengthening? Are you taking the best care of it that you can?  Are you eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising?  Are you indulging in too much caffeine, sugar, or alcohol and thus affecting how well your body can perform?  When you're feeling optimally, it's so much easier to work hard for others.  Are you doing the best you can to optimize the use of your body? What is one thing you can do right now?

Of course, take this to prayer. Let God help you see where to start, but if something is blinkingly obvious, you know, that's a good place to begin.  But, don't fall into the trap on inaction either. Waiting on the Lord is good, but sitting on the fence making excuses is not the same thing. Know which one you're doing.

Little by little, these resolutions will become habits, and these habits will become virtue.  By God's grace and our free-will decision to make an effort in these areas, we will come closer to the goal of fulfilling the great commandment.  "And [we] shall live."

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