A couple years ago, I had a phenomenal spiritual director who was our Catholic military chaplain at the installation to which my husband was assigned. We delved into a lot of spiritual-based conversations, and looking back, he helped me grow tremendously in the knowledge of my faith and spirituality.
The needs of the Army moved both our chaplain and my family at the same time – to different parts of the world, and I haven’t found the time to pursue spiritual direction where our family lives now. But, not having a spiritual director does not relieve me of the obligation to continue to strengthen my relationship with God.
As I recently took my personal spiritual inventory, I realized something astounding.
I am horrible at self-discipline. Quite honestly, I stink at having discipline for any length of time. Once upon a time, I participated in the Nineveh 90 spiritual program, and did okay for those 90 days. But, once those 90 days were over, the practices did not stick. I have routinely started praying the Rosary daily, only to see those good intentions fall to the wayside about a week in for various reasons. I have tried implementing meatless Fridays in an effort to grow closer to God through sacrificing the “little things.”
Yet, nothing sticks because I lack the self-discipline to make any change meaningful, lasting, and permanent.
Culturally, Americans have been independent by nature since the founding of this country. We want things the way we see fit and are determined to get our way no matter what may be best. We have difficulty silencing our mouths and listening to others. We struggle when the tide seems to turn, and when things aren’t going our way. We think we know best, and most of us do not shy away from telling others how they are doing wrong, and we are doing things the right way. In fact, we struggle to adopt an inclusive philosophy, refusing to acknowledge that we may not be the experts of others’ way of life. Historically, as a nation, our priorities have consistently been placed on the individual and pursuit of happiness, rather than the purpose for our lives.
At the end of the day, however, faith requires us to take a good, strong look at our priorities. Faith challenges us to look outside ourselves and truly take account of our actions and inactions, as well as the impact we have on others. Furthermore, faith encourages us to do the right thing in situations, not always because we want to do so, but because we know them to be the right thing.
For example, faith calls us to attend Mass on Sundays and all Holy Days of Obligation, even if we are traveling, wanting to sleep in a little later, not wanting to fight the kids in the pews, or just “not feeling anything” during Mass.
Faith calls us to a life of prayer, speaking to God and keeping the lines of communication open. Even when we’d rather scroll through social media, go to sleep, spend time watching sporting events, and participate in other seemingly mindless events, we are still being gently called to prayer – to the communication with God, which means not just speaking to Him, but also requires we listen for Him.
Faith calls us to enter into a selfless giving of our time, talent, and treasure, even when there seem to be “bigger, better, badder” priorities competing for the three t’s.
Before I started this article, I had re-committed myself to praying a daily Rosary, in an effort to tackle my lack of discipline. But, unlike a nine-day novena, in which it is customary to double-down one day if that person has skipped the day prior, this time I have given myself some leeway and grace.
Some days I have stared defiantly at the Rosary, not wanting to pray it for any given reason. The reasons can be numerous – the kids have been at me all day, my mind is on tasks I need to complete, the day is not unfolding according to my plan. I can use any excuse I choose. But, at the end of all that inner discussion, all I find are … just excuses.
A couple times in the past month, I have had to confess in conversation with God that I was simply not desiring to pray the Rosary. Some days, that confession has led me to pick up the Rosary and as I begin to focus on the mysteries, I have felt the defiance slip away. Other days, after recognizing the litany of excuses I have thrown out, when I have made the intentional decision to not pray, the next small prayer has been to ask for the “simple” desire to pray the Rosary.
I truly desire to be close to God, and to invite Him into my daily life. Even on the days I put off the Rosary, I still turn to Him. Ultimately, that is what He desires of us – to invite Him into our day to day journey. He wants us to desire a relationship with Him, and to build in the moments to listen, and the moments to share. The human soul was made to know, love, and praise God. As paragraph one of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in its first sentence, “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.” The paragraph goes further into detail, explaining, “He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.”
And because God doesn’t use a megaphone to get our attention, He requires we commit a little self-discipline to practicing our faith – to upholding our end of the bargain of our purpose. Lieutenant General (Retired) Hal Moore, the individual made famous in non-military circles through the Mel Gibson starring movie We Were Soldiers, was once quoted in an interview with EWTN stating, “I am in the business of eternity, and I hope I am successful.”
All of us, even those who struggle with self-discipline, should “be in the business of eternity.” Our sights should be set on God alone. With that, comes the challenge to set ourselves aside – set our pride, our lack of discipline, our vices, etc. aside – to focus on cultivating the relationship with God. This philosophy requires us to recognize those moments in which our lack of discipline, or the other forces that dictate our behavior, have stalled our movement toward God, and then take active steps to restart the motion toward God.
God gives us the choice to choose Him. Someday, we will be called to account of whether or not we worked to choose Him or provided excuses to reject Him.
The choice is up to us, and like Lieutenant General (Retired) I am praying not only am I successful in the business of eternity, but that you, dear reader, are, too.
Copyright 2019 AnnAliese Harry