Veering Off

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.

Resolutions

‘Tis the season for new year’s resolutions. Maybe I’m more tuned in than in years past, but everywhere I look I see commentary about making and breaking new year’s resolutions. I’ve seen thoughtful encouragement to adopt a one-word resolution to serve as a focus area, cartoons about resolutions being a to do list for the first week of January or being recycled year after year, and much in between. For my part, I tend to think of new year’s resolutions as course corrections.

No matter the goal, we all need course corrections.  And we need them continually, even when we know our life direction and have a plan for getting there.  The last post described sailing in a fog as a real life metaphor for navigating life, and it acknowledges that sticking to a plan is hard.  Anyone experienced with weight loss resolutions can tell you that.  As if steering the course were not challenging enough, changing conditions can interfere with the journey we planned.  What was intended as a short sail across a sound looks completely different when the wind dies and fog rolls in.  Adroit navigators stay alert to their location, heading, and conditions at all times.  They make frequent adjustments to stay on course to the intended destination.  At times, one’s course may need only a few degrees of adjustment.  Other times, we may need a total turn-around.  How do we know which we need?

I say forget about resolving to lose weight, to work longer (or shorter) hours, or to put more money away for retirement.  Instead, assess where you stand with God.  It seems that much of what is going on in our lives reflects, or flows from, what is going on in our spiritual lives.  Maybe I overeat while the real nourishment I crave is divine sustenance.  Maybe exercising discipline to make time to be present to God every day would strengthen my discipline for other self-improvement actions.  Maybe rearranging my priorities to put God in the center will allow other desires to fall away effortlessly.

This past year my study group read Finding Our Way Again, and in it Brian McLaren outlines a useful exercise that can be adapted for use here.  Fill in the blanks:

  1. 10 years ago, my relationship with God was more______ and less _____.
  2. 1 year ago, my relationship with God was more______ and less _____.
  3. In 5 years, my relationship with God will be more______ and less _____.

Of course, this exercise can be applied to any relationship or personal attribute, but I would suggest starting with God.  Allow yourself to feel where there are tensions are in your relationship and perhaps where connections are loose or missing.  Think about what you want that relationship to be like and the adjustments needed to make it so.  Ponder how God is present to you and how you want to respond to him.

Join the conversation.  Is there forgiveness you need to receive or to extend?

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.  Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.