Friday, September 29, 2006

Spiritual Discipline Is A Form of Stewardship

Yesterday's schedule:

Awoke at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for 7:30 drive to school.
1.5 hours on the road, enjoyed listening to podcasts of The Splendid Table, NPR Food, and best of all, Krista Tippett's "Speaking of Faith" interview with Rachel Naomi Remen. Great company.

Class from 9:00 - 12:00. Intense 20 minute consult with professor afterwards, lunch with enthusiastic new colleague (we'll be small-group partners in the class) who likes to talk as much as I do. Talked animatedly until 2:30. Visited seminary bookstore, went to the library, copied readings for next week.

Got in car, put my seat back, and napped.

Drove back to my approximate neighborhood in rush hour traffic, listened to messages, made some return calls. Picked up some veggies at a nearby farmer's market.

6:30-9:30 visited with church couple who are experiencing serious marital stress. Ate with them. Talked a LOT.
9:30- 12:00 Returned e-mails, did some housework, ranted and raved to myself about something that's upsetting me, rehearsed a few grudges, did not pray before bed.

12:00 Tried to fall asleep in a tizzy of stress and the high of wasteful, draining anger. What I am guessing are leaf mold allergies cause irritating cough. The cat does not want to be around me.

2:30 a.m, very minor anxiety attack awakens me. Fall back asleep immediately.

Morning: wake to find cat pressed to my side in "nurse mode."

My point? When I used to hear the term "spiritual discipline," I immediately generated a mental image of someone who had a serenity gene I did not possess that made it possible for them to meditate or pray for a sustained period. This was just not my nature.
Similarly, it was just not my nature to exercise, because I wasn't a "sporty" type.

What I understand now is that physical exercise and prayer are not a matter of my nature. They are a matter of stewardship of a good gift that I am called to use as wisely and well as possible, both for myself and for others.

When I refuse, or fail, to exercise and to pray, there is no visible consequence to anyone else. But I notice the difference in glaring ways that do, in fact, reverberate into the community. At the end of the day, I have good cause for gratitude, and I always have a decent list of reasons to pray to be forgiven my trespasses. The best days are the ones that I can say, "I did okay. I really did okay today."

"Spiritual" is such a gooey word. It evokes for me whimpy angelic sentimentalism and vague suspicion. "Discipline" I like better, especially for its similarity to the word "disciple." Together, they don't resonate for me. What I am doing in my daily prayer and struggle to change my heart and mind in accordance with the teachings and example of Christ is more verbish than noun-ish. Words like pulling, grasping, reaching, straining, groaning, striving, digging, howling, begging, yearning, leaping, flailing
come to mind. "Spiritual discipline" is such a tepid phrase to express what is really happening and what I am working so hard to attempt.

It makes me admire people with a serious spiritual discipline so much more than I did before.


Blogger Wally Nut said...

I really like the word "practice." A woderful question is: "What is your spiritual practice?" It applies equally well to other forms of work: the doctor, the therapist and the attorney all "practice" their craft. And also, when we mess up we can always say, "I was only practicing."

Blogger PeaceBang said...

I like that, Wally. Thanks.

Blogger Joel Monka said...

Great post, PB- I had not really connected the consequences of my discipline on those around me in that way before. Food for thought


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