I recently read of an academic study where people were offered one pair of socks from among seven pairs. Once they made their selection they were asked to explain/defend their choice. People spoke of colours, designs, textures, and other elements of sockness that drove their selection. The interesting component is that the 7 pairs were all the same and most people didn’t even know it; and in their minds they concocted stories to justify making a selection.
We all must make up stories, or reasons/justifications, for the actions we take (and those we don’t take but feel guilty about). There is something deep in us that resents the very concept of doing something “just because.”
I wonder what your reason for investigating spiritual practices might be?
What story are you telling yourself and how does it impact your walk of faith?
Do you have spiritual goals? What happens if you accomplish them? What happens if you don’t?
My congregation recently studied walking as a spiritual practice and someone shared a copy of the movie called The Way, it’sabout some folks walking the Compostela pilgrimage. They are all walking, ostensibly for one reason (though their reasons vary), by the end they are comfortable admitting the new or real reason (to them themselves and to others), or reason that was revealed along the way, for their walks is something different than they thought. They were explaining the walk to themselves in order to justify it, but at root they were walking for other reasons that needed working out, and the working out required walking, they knew this intuitively.
As you walk your spiritual journey, reading blogs, and hopefully trying out practices and paying attention for God being at work in the world, I hope and pray that God will surprise you with unforeseen outcomes as you walk your path. No matter why you think you have set out, I pray God meets you along the way and surprises you with wonderful insights and truths about Himself and about you, the sorts of revelations that we know intuitively are divine in nature. Often when the reason changes it isn’t as arbitrary as how those folks chose socks but rather is a sign of the Holy Spirit working in you moving you mind to where it needs to focus.
Don’t feel pressured by your goals, intentions, holy desires, or by others who want to see you grow and flourish spiritually. One ingredient of the path that we can all be sure of is imperfection. Most of us grew up with parents, teachers, siblings, and friends who expected us to try hard and lean towards accomplishment and perfection. We have been trained to seek out the “right” way to do a thing and then to “do it properly.” One of the hardest parts of the spiritual practices is that there is no such thing as a universal perfect. Just as there is no one correct reason to walk the Compostela trail there is no one spiritual discipline nor one way to do even the ones we do agree on. There is no one way to pray, meditate, read the bible, journal, share a table, make love, or anything else. No one wins at these; we all just walk along the path before us. Some go further or faster, some paths are narrow others seem more wide.
My point is we must drop the habit of seeking perfection, Jesus was perfect, we are not. Jesus prayed perfectly connected to God, we are more like the disciples who kept falling asleep.
I invite you to ponder who you are trying to impress or please with your spiritual journey and why. We remain humble and open, we learn and we reflect. It is neither good nor bad but it is calling us to our path. Wobbly and imperfect with unpredictable stops along the way.
So, forget perfect and embrace your path.
Take a moment to consider your why, be honest, open, and courageous as you do.