As I watch TV shows on parenting or even raising pets the most common challenge that I notice is inconsistency. Parents (myself included) know the importance of follow-through and a consistent message. Then there are the times, due to tiredness, guilt, or for some other reason, the consistency stops. The behavior increases and surprised the questions comes, “How did this get so bad?” I am currently working with my dog, Grace, who does not have good manners with other dogs. This is a polite way of saying she overwhelms them with her energy and if they are not a strong dog bedlam ensues. I now live in a neighborhood that has lots of dogs and she is getting lots of practice learning how to say hello.
The reality is that I am the problem, not Grace. I need to be honest about that and if I care about Grace, I will do what is best for her, not for me. I need to work with Grace. I have tried using one technique or another and guess what…as time goes on it gets better. Yet I find myself some days just wishing she wouldn’t be so aggressive and then pretending all is well now. Wishing and pretending doesn’t help. I can’t ignore it one day and expect a different result.
As I was thinking about this, I notice a similar pattern in my prayer life and in the prayer lives of others. Why does God seem so far away? Why does something that used to be so easy now feel overwhelming? The spiritual life takes just as much consistency as anything else that is important to us. We can’t expect to pay attention, develop a relationship with the Divine one day and then not pay attention the next day and expect a deep spiritual life. The spiritual life takes just as much consistency as anything else and honestly some days it is really hard work to show up. That is why community support is so important.
A contemplative life is an honest life and a consistent life. Not necessarily to the same practices in the same way every day. It is a consistency in the choice to show up to a relationship with God. It’s that easy and that hard.
What is your spiritual practice? Are you consistent or does it go in stops and starts. Pick a spiritual practice and try to be consistent for 2 weeks. How did it go? If it didn’t, why? Do you need a different practice?