One of the least appreciated element of pro sports is the role of practice and the difference between practice and game time. Many football place kickers can hit field goal after field goal from long ranges in practice and yet they sometimes miss the lowly point after attempt. NBA players can baffle us with their ability to miss a free throw in an important game, or a golfer misses an “easy” putt. Practice is important but it isn’t a virtue in itself, it is a preparation. 

In the spiritual life, it is easy to confuse a healthy practice with a virtue. It happens all the time. Some of us even slide straight into pride and think ourselves better than others because we reach for kale rather than chips or meditate rather than scroll Facebook, as though such matters might prove a moral superiority. We have all met people who makes us feel less-than because of how righteous they are about how they live their lives. 

One obvious issue with this is that many “disciplined” folks are just doing something that mostly comes naturally. For instance, I have been a reader since a very young age, always with a book in my hands. My wife used to leave the house and laugh 8 hours later when she could tell I had barely moved all day as I read. Given that, I can hardly boast, that I am one who reads the bible every year. This may make me more biblically literate than some, but it does not in and of itself make me “better” than others. I am a reader, I am one among many. I am not a faster.

The mistake is in thinking a practice is a virtue. 

It could be said that the biblical pharisees were guilty of such thinking and haughtiness, boldly equating practices (largely following rules they themselves had set up) with righteousness. And Jesus had little time for them. 

As someone who reads this blog (even if for the first time) you are likely at least somewhat interested in the spiritual practices of the christian faith. If you are like many people you feel bad that you do not practice your faith more. You may be down on yourself for failing to fulfill plans you have made to read the bible daily, or meditate 20 minutes a day, or pray or whatever. Some of us go so far as to think we are bad people because we fail to do these things regularly. 

Well, something to remember is that no one is “better” because they have the self-control or discipline to commit to these practices. The practices often have benefits over the long term and surely the hope is that the Holy Spirit will work in and through us as we develop such practices. In fact, we hope to see the fruit of the spirit growing in our lives, love-joy-patience-gentleness etc. but we are not ‘better’ than anyone else just for sitting down. 

My point is this: The fruits are important, exactly how we get to them is not. That is why so many of the practices here are made up, a bit on the fly, examples of ways of being that have worked for me at various times. They are not written in stone and they seek to play with and off practices that have worked for others in other times and places and may just be able to help you along the way. 

When it comes to spiritual practices, go with God, go with instinct, go with what works and what appears to produce the kind of fruit you most desire. Ignore the outer and inner critic. Get out there and play. 

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