Habit #1: Prayer
Let me start out by saying that I’m going to be somewhat more transparent this year than I have been in recent years. When I look back at my old blog, I kind of miss the conversations that happened when I was being transparent. And honestly, most of you know me IRL, so why not share a little more? I’ll try not to overshare, but the truth is that most of the habits I want to work on this year involve some kind of personal things. It would be pretty tough to write about them without transparency. If that kind of openness is off-putting, feel free to ignore these posts. I will not be offended in the slightest.
Okay, with that out of the way…
I’ve blogged several times about my journey to physical health, so I’m not going to rehash all of that. What I have not done is blog about my journey to spiritual health–maybe, in part, because I have not arrived at spiritual “health” yet. So let me back up just a bit to give a quick refresher on what started the spiritual journey…
Back in 2017, shortly after my grandson was born, in the midst of a truly awful winter, I was overweight, depressed, sad, and generally unpleasant to be around in every way. I had a list of five things I had to do every day, and one of those was “read the Bible.”
Historically, I have not been super consistent in daily Bible reading. Like most habits, I would read for a few weeks or months, then slack off. Before 2017, I had managed to read the Bible through several times, but just not with the kind of consistency I admired in other people of faith. But in the same way that I knew that taking better care of my body would translate to better physical health, I knew that taking care of my soul would translate to better spiritual health. It was my hope that reading my Bible would keep me grounded in my fractured faith.
In 2017, reading my Bible was about the only thing I could do for my soul that I didn’t feel cynical about. We tried church off and on, but nothing really stuck. (I may blog more about that later, but I don’t know. Suffice to say that I have church issues.) I didn’t much feel like approaching apologetics, doctrine, theology again. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around anything deep, and I didn’t particularly care about how to argue or not argue the merits of a Christian worldview. I was just hurt, and I needed to return to my roots.
There was an element of obedience to reading my Bible, too. People poo poo acts of obedience, but sometimes, there’s something soothing in them. When you don’t know what else to do, just saying, “okay, I can be obedient with this little thing” can change a heart.
So that’s what I did. I did a simple reading plan and re-read my Bible in one year. When 2018 rolled around, I decided I could read a little more, so I did a 90-day reading plan and finished my Bible in 90 days. Then I did that same reading plan two more times last year in two different translations. Then I did it once more in the first translation again. So yeah, last year, I read the Bible four times (plus I read all the Psalms one extra time at the end of the year).
So now here I am, with a pretty good reading habit established, but… that’s it. And it’s been good to read the Bible quickly several times, and I could easily just keep re-reading it and re-reading it, but…
It’s not quite… I don’t know. Sufficient? Enough? Fulfilling?
I guess maybe I was starting to miss that one-on-one fellowship with God.
Now listen. I have been through my long dark night of the soul. In fact, I went through that some time before my family fell apart. I felt, deeply, the silence of God. In a way, you get used to it. I can live a fairly moral, upright, “Christian” life and answer all the worldview questions the “right” way and still experience a deep and abiding ache where I have no real connection to the Divine.
I am an excellent whitewashed tomb.
When my family was falling apart, I prayed, but ever since we re-established some stability and a sense of “new normal,” I have not really been able to approach the Throne of Grace in any meaningful way. And in truth, I haven’t much wanted to. I feel cynical about prayer–why bother? Praying for my kids and family didn’t work. We still fell apart. I can be obedient–resentfully, perhaps–without that Divine connection. There’s a sense of “okay, Lord, if this is how it is, fine. I’ll be obedient, but I really don’t have much more to say to you. Care for widows and orphans, stay married, and obey the ‘don’ts’–those things I can do, but I’m really not much interested in talking to you again.”
Just keepin’ it real, folks.
But like I said, obedience leads to obedience. I spent about half an hour to 40 minutes reading my Bible every day last year. What if I cut that back and read slower? What if I added some commentary reading–just a little? What if I spent a few minutes of that time in prayer? Actual, real, legitimate prayer. Just five minutes. That’s all. Just five minutes. I can read the rest of that time, right?
But when you pray for five minutes, it’s easier to pray for ten minutes, or fifteen, or more.
I’m not beyond ten yet, but… I’m doing okay with the five to ten.
I’m telling you, folks–it’s hard. Hard. I want to love Jesus with the kind of zeal I see in other genuine, regenerate believers. I want to intercede for my kids, my family. I want to bask in the glory of the Lord and acknowledge how praiseworthy He is.
But man, I’d be lying if I said the words flowed like they did before I got beat up by this broken world.
It is so hard when you did the things “they” told you to do–the things “they” said would make it all turn out okay, and then those things didn’t.
It’s so hard when you think things are fine, and they’re not.
It’s hard to know that you can’t tell anyone–anyone–how hard it all was, how hard it all is, because you know that people will think “if only she’d… then that wouldn’t have happened.”
And you can’t even tell God, because you thought He’d protect from that stuff, and He didn’t, and you don’t know what you did or didn’t do that would make the difference, and you suspect that the truth would hurt even more–that the truth is that this world is awful and ugly and evil, and shit still happens, even to people who do the “right” things, and people still make bad choices, and it all still hurts…
And that. That’s the part you can tell Him.
So that’s where I am. Telling Him that part.
And telling Him a few other things, too. And asking for a few things, but expecting nothing. And meditating on the glory of it all, humbled by the invitation to approach the Throne of Grace.
My goal in January was to just pray for five minutes every day at the end of my reading time. In a sense, this was the easiest habit to integrate, because the time was already set aside–I just had to reallocate it. But in another sense, this was the hardest habit to establish, because prayer is just freaking hard.
But I’m doing it. And it’s getting easier. And maybe in a year, I’ll look back and wonder how I thought that five or ten minutes was so tough. I hope that’s how I see it. I mean, I couldn’t run a mile in January 2017, and now I’m looking at doing a half marathon. Of course, spiritual improvements don’t tend to be as linear as physical improvements, but I can hope that I won’t regress, at least.
So for the moment, Habit #1 is pretty much in place. Habit #2 is daily fiction writing, which, to be honest, is going pretty well right now. More about that later.
And also, I realized that I said two weeks ago that I’d blog about my business goals last week, and I didn’t do that. So I guess next week will be about business goals…
Weekly Unquickened update: It’s pushing 120,000 words now. The basic beginning, middle, and end are all there. It’s sort of roughly organized. Progress is being made. I think I’m on track to finish the first draft by my self-imposed deadline of March 31. Stay tuned.