Our pastor urged all of us this year, as he has done in past
years, to choose a word to focus on in the coming months. Actually,
I already have the word I need. In fact, it is the same word I have
used the past three years. I keep struggling to live with more
"diligence," and this quality eludes me. As St. Paul so famously
said in Romans 7:19: "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the
evil I do not want."
Still, I began 2011, 2012 and 2013 determined to pray at certain
hours, go to reconciliation on schedule, read a specific amount of
Scripture each day and eat only healthy foods. Time could be made
for all of this by watching little or no TV. After all, by being
diligent in letting go of things of little value, there would be
ample time to focus things of spiritual value.
When, after a week or two as usual, the diligence needed to obey
all these rules began to evaporate, I decided to write about it in
my journal. This same journal happened to be another promise I had
made to myself. Even though I started this journal in January of
2011, less than 50 pages have been written over the past three
years. I'd like to share a little of my sporadic three-year journey
January 2011: "Living God's purpose means
letting go of myself … not letting myself go." How does one do
that? I was determined, even then, to wear diligence like an
invisible hair shirt.
July of 2011: Sometimes we wander around
outside the center of our lives for so long we might not even
realize our lives lack focus. Yet, there is always a chance for a
different life lived on a higher plane. More time for prayer, for
worship. A book on fasting convinced me that a right relationship
with food is a form of prayer. Couldn't that be said about
everything? Surely, all of these things are good and true and
within my reach if only I have thediligenceto achieve them.
January 2013: Nothing has changed regarding my
habits, but I am more at peace about who I am. Somehow letting go
of trying so hard to become "more" frees me to be a better, happier
"am." I have always imagined there would come a day (or perhaps a
year) when a switch would flip, and ta-da! I would have become this
person who has lived unseen in my heart and mind for so long.
Finally: Dec. 29, 2013, with the New Year just
ahead, I am, once again, about to write down a set of personal
"rules" that will, at long last, get me from where I am to where I
want to be. My journal also happens to be a book of daily
reflections by Rachel Quillin. On the page alongside my list of
rules she had written: "It's God's grace, and the Holy Spirit in us
that will bring us to maturity in Christ, not human effort or
faithful adherence to a set of procedures." Ouch!
"Ta-da!" The switch did flip, but what has changed is my
perspective. As Brother Lawrence said long ago: "Do not always
scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms
of devotion, but act with a general confidence in GOD, with love
Perhaps diligence doesn't always have to be about rules. What if
diligence is about paying attention to the Holy Spirit each moment,
faithfully following wherever grace leads? When one task is done,
asking: what next, Lord? Diligence isn't always doing. It means
learning to listen with an open heart - one that hears the call in
each moment. What freedom! What joy! Everything doesn't depend on
me after all.