Friday, September 19, 2014

7QT (Vol. 102): God is unchanging. We aren't.

Every now and then, God decides I am not going to pick up on subtle hints and sends me a direct message. Such was the case in Confession recently. I have wrestled with maintaining a quality prayer life for years, a struggle which has become more acute in the past few months. I take my kids to daily Mass regularly and say a Rosary with Jeremy before bed, but I often feel like I've spent time near God instead of with Him. While talking this over with our priest, he mentioned something that has been a huge eye-opener for me:
"Our relationship with God must change."

I've heard before that our relationship with God must grow, that a stagnant relationship is an unhealthy one. I have sought again and again ways to take my relationship with God further. But whatever I tried, I could not maintain the discipline, even as I pleaded in prayer for the grace to keep on. I would slip back into the busyness of life and get so caught up in everything else that prayer had to be slipped into my schedule instead of being the focus of it.

As Father talked, I could almost hear God clear his throat and see him raise his brows pointedly. I have changed. My life has changed. My relationship with God must change as well. I realized that what I've been trying to do is continue the relationship I had with God as a college & grad student and into my first years of marriage. My life then had a very predictable timetable. When work or classes were done, I had hours of uninterrupted time in which to plan my leisure, chores, and prayer life. I attended daily Mass, prayer groups, and Bible studies.

And sometimes I multi-tasked, having friends visit me at work :-)

Then I had Peter and life changed. It changed slowly at first, as newborns sleep a lot and don't much care where they are. But as he grew, life became less predictable. I learned to let go of a rigid schedule and accept a general rhythm of times of activity and quiet. My friendships changed; we learned to meet during the day and chat while watching the kids or wait until late in the evening when they are asleep. My marriage changed; we learned to tend to the immediate needs of the children before our own wants.

But I refused to let my relationship with God change. I had found such comfort and strength in the relationship we had that I was clinging to it. I was sure I could find that security again if I just tried hard enough. I begged God for the self-control to stick to a prayer schedule, to prioritize Him above all else, but in vain. I got so discouraged.

My relationship with God has changed.
Our priest counseled that I embrace my vocation as an act of prayer. The act of bringing the children to Mass is a prayer, an offering of our time to God. Responding with love and patience is a prayer, recognizing God in the least of these. The honest cry for help when I am overwhelmed and touched-out is a prayer. Drawing close to Mary, asking for her heart of love for Jesus and faith to say yes to God, is a prayer. Our priest didn't discount the need to have God at the top of my priority list, but suggested that there is more than one way to do that.

There is still value in simply sitting quietly with God, something I still do often. But it is not my only prayer, nor do I feel like a failure on days it doesn't happen. Now I know the truth, and the truth has set me free.

Read more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary