Habits and Holiness

Eight posts in the last six months. My, how the wordy have fallen!

Sometime during these months of silence, I started thinking about my life, which is incredibly blessed in many ways and kind of a mess in others. Since it's much more depressing to think about the messy parts, that's what I've been doing -- and coming to some odd conclusions.

For instance: I don't have any habits.

Really. None. I don't get up at the same time every morning. I don't always brush my teeth before I go to bed. I don't eat regular meals, walk the dog, play with the cat or clean the house or read books on any kind of a regular basis. I do each of these things as the moment strikes me, or when they absolutely need to be done to avoid disease or debt or embarrassment or all three.

Now you know the sad truth. I laid it bare, along with many other sad and true facts about myself, in confession just before Christmas. I told my spiritual father that I wanted to have a more ordered life, and that I knew the first step in ordering my life was ordering my soul. I asked him to help me to really, actually start living like a Christian.

"Well," he said. "Do you want to get a pen and paper?"

These words thrilled my organizational heart of hearts, and eagerly I took notes as he reviewed the three main supports of a holy life. Prayer: morning, evening, intercessions, reading Scripture. Fasting: more time with God, which means less indulgence in food and television and, hopefully, sinful behavior. Almsgiving: donating money, but also time, energy and resources, to those in need. We talked about visiting monasteries, praying before and after Communion, taking time for silence. 

Of course I know I need to do these things. Christ speaks clearly about each one in the Gospels, and from my youth I have, not obeyed them, but fumbled in their direction. So what is stopping me from going deeper, from attaining what God Himself commands -- that I be perfect, as He is?

And so the last directive, though the simplest of all, was the most revelatory. My spiritual father encouraged me to return to confession soon, but also to confess often on a much smaller scale: examine each day's failings, ask forgiveness where necessary, and try again tomorrow. Examine each week as a whole before going, with a penitent heart, to Communion. Confronting my sins on a relentlessly regular basis, he explained, ensures they will return with less frequency.

In thinking about it later, I realized that to get better at anything (French, singing, throwing a Frisbee, making curry sauce) I need both practice and coaching. And so, to accomplish theosis -- to become like God -- I need to practice shedding my baser instincts and embracing the cross. So that, instead of two steps forward and one step back (or, as is more common, the other way around,) I can start to see real change in my soul, and in my life.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess so that you know I haven't really been silent all these months. I just haven't been ready to say this until now. So thank you, for waiting for me.