Happily Even After
by Stacey Noem
Once when I was beginning with a new spiritual director, I remember him asking me the question: “When are you alone?”
I almost broke into tears right then and there. In that simple question he had struck at the greatest challenge to my spirituality and relationship with God. As a young mother, wife and grad student, not only was I busy—I was NEVER alone.
During those years I began to more intentionally carve out walking time, or visits to chapels around campus.
When we moved and started a new job, I focused on the times I would run in the morning for prayer and intercession.
A year or two ago, when my workout regimen changed, I realized that my prayer was getting lost in the transition and I made a concerted effort to figure out how to carve out the time in my new reality. That was when I first articulated for myself that, as a mature Catholic, but especially as a lay minister, it is inexcusable for me to carve out 45-60 minutes for exercise each day and yet fail to carve even 10-15 minutes for prayer every day.
When I shared this personal insight at my women’s spirituality group, one or two ladies had a strong reaction to my use of the word “inexcusable.” To which I tempered my comment saying that I only apply it to myself. I definitively link “inexcusable” to my career and vocation as an ecclesial minister.
It would be similar for a personal trainer, if they made time to explore other hobbies to the neglect of making time to work out themselves. Or to a hair stylist making time for other interests but not maintaining their own coif or keeping up to date with new trends and styles.
But the ladies in the room pushed back against that justification a bit. They wanted to maintain that as mature, faithful Christians maybe we SHOULD see it as “inexcusable” if we don’t carve regular time out of our schedules for prayer. After all, if we see God as the central and most essential figure in our lives, shouldn’t talking to God be more of a priority than sitting down to catch “must see TV” at the end of a busy day? For that matter, shouldn’t it be more of a priority than sleeping in an extra 15 minutes in the morning, grabbing a coffee break, or getting a full 60-minute lunch hour?
One of my theology classmates, speaking of our relationship with God, once said, “You can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to. Let alone intimacy.” It was a simple off-hand comment, but the truth of it struck me and begs the question: how often do I enter into conversation with God? Which means not only how often do I TALK to God, but also how often do I make room to LISTEN.
We all need ways to hold ourselves accountable. I guess, for me, I can easily measure how well I am prioritizing my prayer life by relationship to how often I carve out time to work out. If I pray less often than I work out, I would name that as missing the mark.
How do you hold yourself accountable? How do you know if you are spending enough time with God?
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