People have never accused me of being “athletic.” I learned early on that I was far more inclined toward music and acting than sports. Sports required some semblance of coordination and endurance, neither of which I possessed. While friends train for marathons, I’m much better at cheering loudly from the sideline. My general rule of thumb is that I only run if something is chasing me.
The truth is, I’ve never really considered myself disciplined. I was a procrastinator through my last days of graduate school. (In fact, I think I sent my From the Pews in the Back submission at 11:57 the night of the due date.) I always wished I were one of those people who would go to the library at 8:00 a.m. during reading week, as I sat on the sofa watching Law and Order reruns on TNT, condemning myself to another late-night paper-writing session.
I always wished I were different, that I was disciplined. The same spilled over into my spiritual life. I always wanted to be one of those people with a fruitful, disciplined prayer routine. Instead, I encountered God in bursts and pulses during the ebb and flow of my everyday life. My spiritual director helped me see that I was praying with who I am rather than who I am not. Still, that felt a little like the easy way out. I wanted to make time for God, carve space in my day to be with God, to listen for the still, small voice. Yes, I was going to be the disciplined person of faith I wanted to be…starting tomorrow.
I’ve finally taken the plunge. After a long flirtation with St. Ignatius, I’ve been seduced into the Spiritual Exercises. Originally intended to take place during a 30-day silent retreat, I’m undertaking a format for everyday life that involves an hour of prayer each day and a weekly meeting with a spiritual director, a daunting regiment that, until now, kept me mumbling excuses to myself about being too busy to try it.
I’m only in the second week of the preparation days. While I haven’t felt any prayer “magic” in my daily prayer, I think I have received a special grace to be disciplined enough to do this. After years of hemming and hawing at the thought of regular daily prayer, the discipline of it has come surprisingly easily once I just started it. God, as always, has given me what I need in order to enter into a new phase of relationship. For that, I am deeply thankful.
Prayer itself has been another matter. Excepts from my prayer journal this week include “Tuesday: started strong, woke up 45 minutes later… Thursday: fell asleep again. Remembered Jesus asking the disciples to stay awake with him.” Yet, I am hopeful that God will work in me in these spiritual exercises. After all, if God can get an undisciplined soul like me to commit to daily exercises, then God is marvelous, indeed!
Angela Batie has her M.Div. from Yale and is a Campus Minister at Saint Louis University. She recently purchased an elliptical machine for her apartment and is cautiously optimistic about her new fitness routine.