So do you remember when I wrote this post back in June? I talked about how my prayer life had been renewed this summer and how I was feeling really good at where my spiritual life was at, I felt like it was growing again. Here is an excerpt of that previous post:
“After making this time before the tabernacle the foundation of my spiritual life, I’ve been able to expand my prayer life in other ways as well. I’ve started journaling again, and instead of merely recaps of my day, I’ve been able to explore actual movements of my heart. I’ve also picked back up on spiritual reading. Here is the thing about that though…I get over zealous and try to read like 8 books but then never completely finish one. But I’m trying to stay semi-focused.”
(and then I did in fact list like 8 different spiritual reading books I wanted to get done)
Well, what do you know, I got over zealous. I thought that since my prayer life was giving me an inch, I’d try to take a mile. I tried to accomplish months worth of spiritual development within a few weeks. Until suddenly, I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t do it anymore, and I didn’t want to do it. I was so overwhelmed by the different prayers, devotions and readings I was trying to stay on top of that I suddenly shut down. Not only did I stop working at my prayer life, I lost my desire to as well.
Yet, something small inside me still burned and made me want to want it. I desired to be in a place where I wanted to pray. So I went and talked to my spiritual director. He said something that really stuck with me and helped me understand what had happened:
“Brooke, you’re a Type A person, and that is great. You go full force and give 100% to everything you do and you make sure that it is done well and has good results. But your spiritual life can’t be like that.”
As we talked through it, I realized that I very much view my prayer life the exact same way I view almost everything else in my life: in terms of productivity. I have tried to perfect my prayer life, tried to find what type of prayer works best for me, what prayers I get the most out of, or how I can get the most done in my spiritual life as possible. I also keep looking for an end result – to be more selfless, more loving, etc. And I have not been able to focus on just one thing; I think I have to be growing in all the virtues at the exact same time or I am missing something important. Plus, being the Type A person that I am, I have tried to dictate the direction my prayer life takes. I have been the one telling God what I need to work on and how we are going to go about doing it.
So this summer – when I had 8 different spiritual reading books on my bedside table, 3 virtues I wanted to work on, and a number of devotions I wanted to do – I was overwhelmed by how unproductive I felt because I wasn’t making very much progress in any of them. And it made me shut down. It discouraged me so much that I didn’t even feel like I wanted to pray anymore.
I am learning, now, how to let my Type A personality lessen its hold on me when it comes to my spiritual life. I am learning that I do not need to go full force into the wealth of the Catholic prayer tradition, but rather I can take it one day and one step at a time. It is okay for me to slow down. I am also learning that I do not need to always know the right prayer to say or the perfect reflection to use. Instead, I need to let God work in the right now of the life before me. Further, I need to try not to take the lead on this one. I have to realize that my prayer life will be much better off when God is leading me instead of me trying to lead God.
So how am I doing this?
-okay, the Type A in me still makes me task oriented-
I am trying to simplify. I am taking my spiritual life to the bare bones of it. I am trying to remember what it is like to just be in the presence of God, and to seek His presence. I’ve picked one spiritual reading to focus on, recommitted to daily Mass, and found one prayer to focus my reflections on, all of which help me be aware of the fact that God is here with me at every moment.
Below is the prayer I’ve been praying with, I hope it speaks to you the way it has to me: