I’ve spent most of today and yesterday thinking about my current spiritual crisis and have gotten a lot of clarity on the issue.
First of all, I thought again about what my options really are: the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, or the “God Lite” route where I talk about being a “spiritual” person while doing whatever I want. Looking back, this isn’t really that much of a dilemma: I’ve made too many people vow to kick my ass if I ever say I’m “spiritual but not religious, ” so that rules out the third option; the teachings of the Orthodox Church are appealing to me, but I don’t feel drawn to it, so that puts option number two aside for the moment. And then there’s the first option: the Catholic Church.
The process that’s led me to get this far into the Church has been more like falling in love with a person than a cerebral theological pursuit. Since the moment I began seriously considering becoming Catholic I’ve felt an intense, gut-level pull toward the Church that’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced. On an intellectual level I’ve had some reservations — sometimes, like now, major reservations — but on the emotional, gut level I’ve never really doubted that this is where I’m meant to be.
I heard a wonderful priest, Fr. Eugene Morris, on Relevant Radio’s show The Inner Life this afternoon. They were discussing this very topic and Fr. Morris had some excellent insights on the issue of not feeling close to God. He made two analogies: the first that getting to know God is like getting to know a person — you need to invest time in the relationship to really get to know that person. The second analogy was of prayer being like working out — you wouldn’t expect to see results if you didn’t do it very often.
Now that I can relate to.
One of my more annoying hobbies is my never-ending quest to lose about ten pounds, so the similarities to prayer and working out really grabbed me. And I asked myself: if I looked back over the past few months and replaced the time I spent praying and/or in church with time at the gym, would I expect to see any differences in my physical appearance? Hmm. One hour each week on Sunday and, say, an average of two minutes per day praying. Umm, no. That wouldn’t get me anywhere. So why is it that I would expect to have gotten anywhere in my spiritual life?
Just like there are some people who can be fit and trim without ever giving a second thought to diets or exercise, there are some people who seem to have a solid faith in God and the Church without ever having to work at it. Maybe it’s just the way their brain is wired, maybe it was their upbringing, who knows. But one thing is clear in both cases: I am not one of those people.
So just as I don’t spend any time wondering why those last ten pounds aren’t coming off when I’ve been eating whatever I want and hardly ever exercising, I don’t think I should be spending any time wondering why I don’t feel close to God when I spend less than two hours per week in any sort of prayerful activity.
Maybe it won’t work — just like I sometimes feel that I can’t lose any weight no matter how much I cut calories or exercise — but I certainly have no excuse to complain about it until I’ve actually tried.
It’s time for me to take more responsibility here. Yes, I am coming at all this from a disadvantage since my atheist background wires me to prize intellect and reason to the absurd exclusion of anything that can’t be proved on paper (which is, really, the typical prideful human tendency to want to be like God, to need to believe that we know everything). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no way I can ever embrace the faith that I feel being kindled somewhere deep down inside. It may just mean that I need to try harder.
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