When You’ve Fallen Off Your Spiritual Wagon

Christ is risen!

The Paschal season is upon us, filling us with new hope, new joy, a lightness of heart, and a fresh start. And in the light of the Resurrection, I’m overjoyed to be restarting this project after barely getting it off the ground last year.

Have you ever started something and then found yourself not following through the way you thought you would? And have you ever noticed that the longer you avoid the practice or responsibility or whatever it is you’ve let slip the harder it is to get started again?

Well, writing has been that practice for me. Just after my last post, my son Theodore was born, and the normal routines of a new baby (read: exhausted mom) kicked in, and as the weeks passed, it became harder and harder to get myself writing again. As I reflected on this phenomenon of the psychological block that paralyzes us from getting out of a slump, I realized that this is an all-too-common part of our spiritual lives. We often start something new with the best of intentions–we get up earlier to pray a little more or read more Scripture, we go to confession to repent of our sins–but as soon as we slip up, we suddenly discover how much easier it is to let that slip up become the norm than it is to begin again. So how do we keep ourselves from falling off the wagon?

When You Can, Do

These days, I feel like distraction and laziness are such easy temptations into which we can fall. It’s so very easy to fill up our every free moment with mindlessness. It’s often much easier to scroll on social media for fifteen minutes than to pray for the same amount of time. It’s so much easier to binge-watch Netflix than to make time to serve others.

But good habits take time to build, and if our time is whittled away in bits and pieces by things that do not matter, we’ll find that weeks and months can pass and we have moved no closer to God. In fact, we may even begin to feel cold or indifferent toward Him.

When you find that you have a spare moment throughout the day, let your thoughts be captive to Christ, let your minutes be filled with the pregnant silence of expectation rather than the muddling noise of distraction. Like jotting down a few ideas when they come to you so that you don’t forget them later when you have more time to organize them into a blog post (note to self), offer up little prayers and needs as they come to you so that when you have more time to sit in His presence and pray, you are already in the habit and know where to start.

When You Can’t, Be at Peace

Now, having said all that, I’ve found that just as paralyzing as laziness is guilt. I find it incredibly easy to slip into guilt and self-loathing when I don’t think that I have done enough “spiritual stuff.” It’s very easy for me to forget that God is not counting up tasks completed or minutes standing in church. God is pursuing us with His love in hopes that we will turn to Him and let Him heal us, make us whole, and fill us with His Spirit.

It’s no good looking at what others are doing and lamenting that you can’t do the same or remembering with regret a time in your life when prayer came more easily. Instead, in all things give thanks, and do your best to be at peace when the demands of children or school or work or life’s many other circumstances keep you from having your ideal spiritual life. I have found that often our ideal is actual our idol, and this can be true even of our Orthodox practices. If we sink into shame for not being able to do enough or to do things right, then we may find that it is even more difficult to offer anything at all.

And when you do indeed fall away from Christ and into sin, do not despair. Don’t let your guilt paralyze you and keep you from repentance. Be at peace knowing that God’s love is infinitely greater than any mistake you can make.

So whether it’s been ten months or ten minutes since you’ve had your heart focused on Christ, dear ones, remember that every moment He is waiting for you and that every moment is an opportunity for you to respond. Take your next moment to say, “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.”

 

 

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