40 Words #5: “Practice” (2.15.2016)

mcc-basketball06-1jpg-9346e726ae44d1ea.jpgWelcome to Lent Week #2! I hope everyone had a good “feast day” yesterday, and that everyone is now re-engaged and focused on the continuing journey for contemplation and reflection.

Today’s word is “practice.”

“Practice” isn’t a word that is typically associated with my Christian tradition; instead, the Buddhists tend to use this word more closely with their religion.

But over the past few years, I have engaged and used this word more closely. It has resonance for me, because I have learned that (a) Christianity is in fact, a “practice”, and (repeatedly; b) I desperately need a consistent practice in my life.

The past couple of years have been hard ones for me. I came face-to-face with patterns of unhealth in my life that threatened, well, everything in my life.

I was beaten.

What’s more, the fault was not with God; it was with me. The “faith” that I was living out was all in my head, and tended to stay in particular places, like on Sundays, or close to my Bible.

My faith, my religion (in the best sense of the word), was not coming with me. It was “out there,” external to who I was…

… and I needed more.

So I began to own up to my failures, and admit that in many ways I was actually a functional atheist or agnostic: I believed in God, but I sure didn’t trust him with the ins and outs of my daily life. Slowly, over time, I began to simply practice healthy spirituality: meditation and contemplation; silence and solitude. I began to let God have his way with me on a day-to-day (sometimes even hour-to-hour) existence.

I discovered that when you practice your faith, two things tend to happen: first, it reinforces the need for consistency. Practicing is something I’m familiar with, and I know that more gets accomplished in small chunks of repeated, consistent efforts than with “cramming.” Second, you can’t fail at practicing. The concept of a faith “practice” reminds me that there’s no passing grade with Christ: he loves me as a brother and son, regardless of whether I’m soaring or crawling. My job is simply to get up and be present: to not evaluate my prayers or my scripture reading. Just to do it and trust God that He is faithful and moving, whether or not I see or feel it. I have a tendency to evaluate my spiritual performance: did I feel God’s presence?

Do I feel his love?

Am I crying?

“Practicing” spirituality reminds me that the goal is not the feelings during the prayers (no moreso than the point of practice is be “awesome” while you’re running scales in your bedroom or sinking jump shots in the gym by yourself); no… The point of practicing is to perform when it counts.

And the “game” (or “concert”) we are in is one called “LIFE.”

We “practice” our spirituality so that we can perform well—with love and compassion and understanding and presence that somehow resembles Jesus Christ’s—with the world out there that needs us.

Lent is such a good time to learn more about “practicing” faith and spirituality. The 40 days is a “doable” chunk of time to engage in a new practice (or to disengage from an unhealthy practice).

And it’s never too late to start!

 

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