Is family life, work, school, or whatever thing we keep ourselves preoccupied with, ever a valid excuse in delaying, or avoiding, spiritual growth? The answer is no. Let me unravel this a bit further today.
If the focus of our life should be our relationship with the Lord, the most important relationship of our life, is it valid that anything should stand in the way of that relationship? Undoubtedly, a few key hall marks of a good marriage is a good relationship between the husband and the wife. Constant communication, open and honest discussion, and humble acceptance of admonishments are just a few things that ought to develop as we pour ourselves into that relationship. Sure in the beginning there may be push back, some growing pains, but if all things are done in order that love may grow in that relationship, this quickly vanishes, and what is left is wholesome and good. One thing is clear with this type of relationship: it takes time and energy. We have to make commitments to spend time with the ones we love. Sometimes we have to put aside the things we enjoy for the sake of the other, and sometimes we have to confront, and deal with our own spiritual flaws that we bring into that relationship. All of this is worth it, and all of this is absolutely necessary. So I ask you this: why are we not all putting that same time and energy into the most important relationship; the one with our Lord?
I had to spend some time thinking this through, for there are multiple ways at looking at this. Our relationship with God can be imagined as a spectrum. Some have no relationship with God, others have a great relationship, and some will fall in some vary degrees in between. I would start of by saying those who have a great relationship with the Lord could arguably be considered your saints, or even just very holy people living around you. Those who take their relationship with God seriously, and make the time for it. The folks in between, I believe that these are those who have the DESIRE in their heart to be closer to the Lord, but perhaps their fervor is slightly weak due to sin, but nevertheless, they still posses the desire to be closer to God. Lastly we have those who are at the opposite end, and these are those who exert no energy and time into their relationship with God.
The folks who have no time will make excellent excuses for why they have no time, and the stories they tell themselves are a reflection of the disillusion they live in. I think in our modern time the majority of the excuses come in the form of work. “There is just too much work to do,” they claim. “I can’t spend anytime on spiritual things due to work.” Now, to make sure I do not seem heartless, I want to clarify something. There may be those, that by sheer necessity of survival need to work above and beyond what is normal. A single mother or father, having to work two jobs to support the family, is perhaps a valid case, though I do not say that is always an exception. Every single case needs to be evaluated on its own merit. For example, someone may stake the claim that they need to work constantly in order to pay the mortgage on a mansion, sports cars, a yacht, and a personal helicopter. This is someone who simply wishes to maximize pleasure to the extreme, beyond the necessity of survival. These types of individuals have absolutely no excuse for delaying their relationship with God, and likely will be condemn harder in the next life, such as the rich man in the parable from scripture. Work is necessary, and it is required by all. We cannot be idle, but work for some can be an intentional excuse to not spend time with the Lord. Do not be so deceived, or let your heart be softened, by one who claims to work non-stop. The majority of the time, this is deliberate, and it will be deliberate for a variety of reasons: desire for wealth, a higher position in the company, or simply having an inordinate love of their job. By work, I also mean stuff that is happening at home too, such as having to take the kids all over for lessons, or even spending time on personal hobbies. To a certain point, even the unhealthy demands from the family, or friends is also not acceptable. Yet, is any of this a legitimate reason to put off our relationship with God? The answer is no.
To explain why the excuse above is not valid, I will use an analogy. The doctor tells you that you will have diabetes if you don’t reduce your sugar intake. What do most sensible human beings do? Well, since they wish to avoid an early temporal death, they do as the doctor orders. Why would the majority of Catholics, when told that they will achieve a spiritual death, and eternal separation from the Lord if they do not strive to have a relationship with Him, ignore this advice? The difference is that they have faith in man, and not in God. That is really it. They have faith in what they see with their eyes, and not what they can’t see spiritually. We do not need to overthink this. It reduces purely to a lack of belief in God. Faith, like the other theological virtues, are not natural to us, and come from God as a grace. Without this grace, we would not be able to have faith. Therefore, those who have no faith in God are simply not responding to this grace deliberately, and really just don’t care. This is a tough reality to accept! Sometimes I spend time pondering why some accept the faith deeply, and others not don’t, and at a certain point we have to accept the fact that many will exercise their free will against the desired will of God. Their relationship with God is not real, and it isn’t important. The final judgment and destination of their soul is not something they are worried about. Is there anything more to discuss? At a certain point, the excuses made are really just excuses made to cover up for one’s lack of faith. These people cannot be helped, except by grace alone. We cannot force someone to accept this reality, they must do so. If they do not, nothing can be done. Pray for these individuals, be a good example as needed, and move along. Do not spend time trying to revive a dead branch on the vine, this is beyond our power. God can do this at His discretion, but we cannot breathe into life into this branch, unless the Lord decides to use us as His instrument to do this.
Now, for those that have faith, but are still actively working to improve their relationship with God (myself include!), what are we to do? Here is a list of things to consider:
- First, I believe we need to evaluate our life in it’s fullness. If you want to spend more time with the Lord, evaluate where you currently spend your time on now. Everything that you do in the day has to be evaluated, and what is necessary must stay, and what is waste has to be reduced, or all together eliminated. Sometimes, some dramatic changes might be necessary! Self-knowledge is important. Be objective and honest with yourself.
- Second, proceed in change slowly. Not many can completely eradicate all inordinate attachments, and transform that time 100% to the Lord. Many who are starting this journey are very weak spiritually, like babies, and we cannot expect the same rigor from a baby as we do with an adult. Start small, but persevere.
- Third, fill that free time with something you find “easy” to do. Not many people can just dive into a theological books and start meditating on the deep truths of the universe. You have to fill that time with something that is fruitful for you early on. Somethings to try out: read the daily gospel and meditate silently, follow along with Magnificat, watch or listen to some good, spiritual program, go to daily mass, or perhaps go for a walk and spend sometime talking with the Lord. Overtime, our time spent with the Lord will grow, mature, and evolve into something that is unique to your relationship with God.
- Lastly, if you can do some of the items above with someone, that is great. I think having someone who is ahead on the journey is an absolute plus, but of course, this is not often the case for most. I find some temperaments benefit greatly from someone who can push, and motivate them. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, do not discourage. Proceed at the pace grace enables you.
I think that is sufficient for now. Faith, a holy desire, and perseverance are key early on. It will hurt to detach yourself from these earthly attachments, and we will have to struggle during this transformation. Those have spent a long time letting their body rule them, instead of their spirit, will have a hard time. But from this, an increase in virtue, the gifts and grace will surely follow, allowing you to go further, and further. Progress for most is going to be slow and steady, so don’t give up. Pray for those who lack faith in your life.
Blessed Mother, pray for us always!