The ways we veer off course are as many and as individual as people on the planet. We can’t make the corrections we need, though, until we recognize how we veered off. The last post suggested that many of our strengths and shortcomings may flow from strengths and shortcomings in our spiritual lives.
When I said to forget about new year’s resolutions to lose weight or to save more for retirement, I didn’t mean that taking care of yourself or saving are not important and responsible things to do. To make a personal confession here, I am constantly challenging myself about where I build up my treasure. As a fervent saver and frugal if not stingy spender, it would be the height of hypocrisy for me to discourage saving for retirement. Rather, the suggestion intended to provoke questions about what gets in the way of our intended destination. There’s a saying that if one wants to know what his priorities really are, he need only look at his calendar and his bank account to see where his time and money are actually spent (or not spent). Obstacles getting in the way of saving might be a desire for ever more stuff or maintaining a certain “standard of living” or hanging onto an asset we can‘t really afford hoping someday to cash in. Realigning priorities can help overcome these obstacles. Putting God in the center of my life and being “on course” spiritually doesn’t automatically fill my retirement account or make the pounds melt away, but re-centering my priorities may make it easier to follow through on the changes I need.
Different traditions use different language to describe our wrong turns. Religious traditions call it sin. Hebrew texts use three words for sin. Chet translates literally to missing the mark. Avon means desire, and pesha means rebellion. Episcopal doctrine defines sin as squandering God’s blessings and “the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.”
“Sin” can be a religiously charged word, and the Twelve Step tradition avoids it altogether. It focuses instead on the defects of character that underlie wrongdoing. The Third Step in Twelve Step programs is deciding to align one’s course to God’s will and to surrender one’s own will where it departs from God’s will. Surrender is a difficult step. All of the Twelve Step recovery seekers I have known have spoken of turning their will over to God in a Third Step and “taking it back” at some point in their journeys.
Regardless of language or spiritual tradition, we all “miss the mark,” have “desires” that drag us off course, and “rebel” against the course we set for ourselves from time to time. Those occasions may deplete our morale or dent our pride, but they harbor a great invitation—an invitation to turn back, to get back on course. The next several posts will explore ways to recognize where we have veered off course so that we can accept the invitation to make the turns we need.
Join the conversation. When you drill down on the things in your life that seem out of balance physically, emotionally or intellectually, can you trace the imbalance to spiritual roots?
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.