I have developed a spiritual routine over the past few years that serves me well. It has helped to keep me focused, driven and on track. But still, sometimes I am reduced by my own willfulness.
Occasionally I find myself reaching for replacements to prayer and spiritual reading.
I call these God replacements.
I mostly blame it on my mood, my schedule and even the season (oh, winter how I dislike you!)
But either way, the result leaves me feeling, at times, somewhat spiritually barren.
For example, my daily prayers, if neglected long enough will gradually be more and more replaced with news, social media or just about anything else I find more interesting.
My everyday practice of reciting the rosary in my car has often been replaced with listening to music.
My evening spiritual reading has at times morphed into spending time with my dogs.
Again – God replacements.
Objectively, none of these things I’ve listed are bad or destructive. In fact, my dogs need my attention and me.
But I have replaced my Creator with what is created. I need God more than that.
And where do God replacements take us?
In the spiritual life, one must progress. As with everything in life, there are only two directions one can take.
By avoiding things like prayer and spiritual reading, we avoid progress, and consequentially we’re really avoiding God.
We put ourselves at risk of heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps without ever having realized it.
The progress of becoming a more virtuous person really depends on two things: grace and our own determination. And grace is pretty much always at our disposal, if we ask and pray for it … but it’s often our own determination that wavers and changes.
Growing in virtue is not, and cannot be, just about making good intentions. Sure, good intentions are necessary as a start but what’s most important is recalling and renewing these good intentions throughout our day. Progress doesn’t just happen on its own. We also, with God’s help, must act.
Each day we must examine how faithfully we are following our intentions and seek to improve our effort.
Otherwise … God replacements.
They’ll start to show up in our lives. Perhaps even unconsciously. And we put ourselves at risk of becoming someone we do not want to be.
But, when it happens, don’t give up! It’s never too late to make or renew our good intentions. In fact, we must never lose hope of making spiritual progress. There is still time. And why put off good intentions until tomorrow?
Starting over is easier than you think.
You just need to simply:
- Examine your life
- Face what needs to be done
- Pray to God for His strength and guidance
- Start doing it
Make a daily effort and don’t turn away at the first sign of difficulty. Try again and again, in spite of repeated failures.
Refuse to quit.
Because if we keep doing nothing …
Then nothing will ever change.