Glory to God in all things! Cliche? Maybe. True? Definitely!
I had a most excellent day with my brother; we're building a doll house for my oldest. She'll be two this March, so it's not a very complicated doll house -- basically four large rooms which we will paint in bright primary colors on Tuesday evening when my brother comes again. All of this in preparation for Christmas, which I know seems early, but Christmas at our house will also come a little early, at least as far as this particular present is concerned. Why do you care about this? Good question.
I had a wonderful conversation with one of the brothers at the local monastery. I'm still trying to force a "rigorous" catechesis onto my life, you see, and I was hoping to get a kick in the spiritual pants. (For more on this weekend and our family's "need" for spiritual highs, please read Felicity's wonderful post Spiritual Ups and Downs.) I certainly got a good nudge in the right direction, but it wasn't what I was hoping for. Maybe I can unpack this slightly better.
Living with E., I watched him struggle through a very strenuous catechesis. His prayer rule was a good hour a day (half an hour for morning prayers and half an hour for evening prayers), plus a certain number of Jesus Prayers, prostrations, and spiritual reading. I was really looking forward to this. Ascesis is not a dirty word in my book. I once tried fasting Muslim style during Ramadan. After the first hallucination I gave up. This is me, though. I want to be given stringent instructions and upbraided for my inability to follow them. Weird, right?
Fr. Stavros took a different approach. Given that we have two small children (two under two), a new house, not a lot of money, a busy work week, et al. just taking any time to pray is better than trying to struggle to maintain morning and evening prayers. Sometimes, he said, you find the time to pray when you can; and that discipline is more important than keeping some unrealistic rule that doesn't fit into your daily life. I hate when monks tell me things like this. He's the third, and it pisses me off (sorry if that bothers you). The truth of the matter is that I want to be Jesus. I really want to have the final say on my spiritual development, and I believe that God will honor my well intentioned revision of His plan for my life. Surely when I reach the spiritual heights discussed in the Desert Fathers and other compendiums (which I will be able to accomplish following three easy steps in three months for no more than 3 hours a day), He'll hand me the heavenly crown early and I can just breeze through life.
Arrogant much? And so I'm getting back to normal. God is still loving, and I'm learning to live within His time table without any suggestions for change. I am incredibly sinful. I have noticed what a jerk I am. I've been keenly aware of bitterness and resentment. I feel I'm constantly complaining (just ask Felicity). In short, I have enough to worry about just living where I am now without trying to force my square peg into someone else's round hole.
A new rhythm is needed. So we're trying to pray together (like really say prayers) once a day (usually at night), say prayers at meal times, and remember to pray when the time is available to me (usually with my little brown prayer beads). I'm still discontent most of the time and feel a little directionless; but God is faithful, and I need to learn how to trust Him.