About this time in the season of Lent, I can slip into the spiritual doldrums. That is, after nearly 40 years of repeating the liturgical cycle on the backside of winter, I can find myself stuck in a same-old, same-old ho-hum spiritual rut. Is there anything new under the sun? could describe the unspoken sensibility.
Recognizing the symptoms is helpful, but not necessarily curative. Yet it’s at this point the spiritual disciplines have their place – they hold my intention through the dry patch which might take me to Easter and beyond… I just never know how long it will last.
I mention this for two reasons: First, as an affirmation that I am as susceptible to spiritual languishing as you are; second, as an affirmation that this is as much a part of the spiritual journey as a wondrous “mountaintop experience.” Actually, it might seem more the norm than not. And here I’m speaking not of the darkest nights of the soul, but the less pronounced prolonged periods of spiritual dryness and disconnection.
As I said though, this is where the spiritual disciplines make their room and board – we practice them to help us maintain our focus on the things that matter most, even when we don’t feel like it, or feel much of anything at all. We climb on their backs, as it were, and let them carry us across the desert with our tongues stuck to the rooves of our mouths and our minds racing with the children’s question, “Are we there yet?”
Do you have some practices – things like prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, scripture, public worship, yoga, service, spiritual conversation? Spiritual disciplines, referring to habit, repetition, doing-it-even-if-you-don’t-feel-like-it. Committed athletes know something about this. As does anyone who has pledged themselves to another person in love over time. Parents understand this, too, at least those that take their role to heart. Repetitive disciplined behavior is a bedrock component of the loving relationship – if they could, your children would tell you this.
Here’s a tip: when you are languishing spiritually, take on a new discipline that’s not so onerous you’re defeated before you begin. And then, practice, practice, practice.