Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sabbath Moments - Aridity and Manipulating God

Sabbath Moments is a weekly meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace. These are the moments when we "let go and let God" and live in the present moment.

Hmmm. I was thinking about that "letting go and letting God" part of this meme and I am realizing that it's a good thing I participate in this meme because moms really have no other choice than to place everything in God's hands and go with the flow. Kids are unpredictable for the most part and their needs supersede our own. Since returning from the beach  (where I had a nice little "spiritual routine" of daily Mass and prayer going) I am back to "winging it" where prayer is concerned. Far from being bad for me as I used to believe, this is actually good for me. How can praying less be good for me? Well, I certainly rely more on God during these times. My prayers often become less formal and more heartfelt. Shorter but sweeter, I guess you could say. Plus, I have come to realize that routine, which is normally good, can at times have a negative effect spiritually in that we can come to place more importance on the routine  than on the God behind the routine.  We can be "using" the routine itself as a source of consolation.  A way to test this is to pay attention to whether or not you feel disturbed inside when your regular prayer/Mass routine is upset for a good while. If you ARE disturbed it's likely that your motives are not completely pure. So the Lord likes to throw a few "wrenches" into my daily routine so that I don't become complacent. Another factor that  has come to my attention over the years  are "prayer agendas". We all have these, whether we recognize them or not. Some are very subtle. Some are not  : )

I have noticed that after periods of consolation during prayer, when a "dry season" sets in, that I sometimes try to reproduce, or maybe "recapture" would be a better word, these feelings by trying to do exactly what I did while they were happening. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I am well aware that I am doing it, too. As if God can be manipulated in such a fashion! The aridity and dry spells remind me that God is in charge at all times and I (now, at least) try to keep my peace regardless of the state of my prayer life. Note the word "try" because I am going to be very honest here:

Over the years I have thrown a number of what can only be called "spiritual tantrums" before the Lord. Just like a small child who doesn't get her way. Instead of remaining peaceful in the knowledge that God has all things well at hand at all times, in my spiritual pride I have allowed my emotions to "fly all over the place" when the Lord's will does not coincide with my own. At first I didn't realize I was doing this - until the Lord brought it to my attention. I was lacking in the trust and faith which are crucial to a Christian and important to our spiritual growth and it would result in my losing the interior peace that God gives us. I would get all nervous and upset over things in life that I had absolutely no control over.  The thing is that God reveals things in layers and I was not aware at first of this "manipulation".  As He has worked on the healing of my emotions over the years more and more of this kind of behavior has come to my attention. Some of the things He has shown me surprised me. "Now, Lord, why didn't I notice I was doing that?"

God hides a lot of things from us. Were He to reveal our sinful natures all at once we might be thrown into despair and He doesn't want that so He peels the layers off slowly. He purifies all aspects of our nature provided we allow this and it usually takes a lifetime. This is one of the reasons why we shouldn't judge others. Often, the very same faults lie in us.

 My Sabbath Moment was originally going to be about my vacation but I somehow got sidetracked.

The vacation was great, by the way.


  1. So glad you had a great vacation. I sort of envy you, especially in this long, hot summer in Missouri. Being at the beach and swimming in the ocean is really attractive right about now.

    Mary, I think a certain amount of routine (scheduled times for prayer) is good. It's how I pray the Divine Office every day and don't forget to do it. But I also think that St. Therese and St. Faustina had inspiring ideas of prayer like the offering up of the activities we must do as part of our vocation in life. The Sabbath Moments meme is a great one because it makes me look for God in everything - whether consciously at the time I'm doing something or later in reflection. I believe that every time we think of God it is a prayer.

    I never thought about manipulating God, but I have tried bargaining with Him. It doesn't work because usually what I want isn't what He wants. :)

  2. I think my comment got lost in cyberspace before it reached you. If not, then sorry for a duplicate. I LOVE this post. You are one of the wisest people I know. Your writing blesses me greatly. I do not use schedules and lists in homeschooling (or life, in general) for this very reason. I like to have a wide-view plan and then surrender to the Holy Spirit and let HIM run with it. I find that He enjoys routine and that our days fall into a natural routine when I live this way. When I try to get it all "on paper" and "follow it"...there is WAY too much "me" in there and not enough "Him".
    Anyway, LOVED this post; thanks:)

  3. I'm becoming more aware of things I need to improve on in my spiritual life (which really is my whole life - everything ultimately becomes a part of it, for better or worse) I think it's one of the fruits of my preparation for Consecration.

  4. Great post Mary. I see how "prayer schedules/routines" could become somewhat of a consolation and not necessarily a good one. Although when I hit those dry times, even though it is hard because I don't feel like praying to begin with, I try to stick to my formal prayer- this is when I am truly grateful for Magnificat's Morning and Evening prayer.
    As for "spiritual tantrums" I have had my share and when I realize it I tell God I am sorry for acting like a spoiled brat :)
    Fr. Joseph Homick has a good 2-part post on Spiritual Dryness. You can find the links on my left sidebar in the Highlights from Other Bloggers box.
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts and God bless.

  5. Spiritual temper tantrums... yup been there

  6. Mary-this is outstanding! I like the idea of shorter but sweeter prayers, and I think it's very interesting that you find a positive side to the disruptions to your routine. I'm sure that God would rather have us pray with all the love in our hearts in a disjointed manner if that's what our life intails instead of dully following a routine without any love. You are so beautiful and reading your words always lifts my heart!

  7. Barb,
    Trust me, it's hot here too. It hit 102 yesterday! I couldn't believe it!

    Routine is good on the whole and normally my routine consists of a Morning offering, The Rosary, Mass and I try to pray each day during the 3:00 hour of Mercy and at bedtime. Most of my prayer however is informal - I chat with God all day long. I guess my point is that routine is good but rigidity is a problem. The Lord has very much worked on loosening my grip on my prayer life so that He can take the reigns. Whereas I used to become very upset when my spiritual routine was disturbed I've noticed this has lessened considerably. The very fact that I would get so upset showed me that I was not always doing these things for love alone and that I did not trust in God enough. I noticed that, as in a dance only one can lead, so it is in one's prayer life. Staying peaceful during constant interruptions and when circumstances do not allow me to have a scheduled routine has been a blessing for me in that I am allowing the Holy Spirit to lead rather than trying to force my own will on God and others.
    I have tried bargaining with God, too (lol)! Thanks for commenting, Barb :)

  8. Judy,
    I'm glad the post was helpful to you. I was worried that people might misunderstand what I was trying to say here and think that I was suggesting that folks should scale back their prayers and the like which was not my intention. So I'm glad my words came across the way they were meant to :) Your words here express the point I was trying to make - pliability not rigidity. The Holy Spirit is the greatest prayer leader of all and following his guidance is important. Thanks for the great comment!

  9. Maria,
    I think it's great that you are doing the Consecration to Mary! She takes care of all that's necessary concerning are spiritual lives when we do this. It's like getting a huge jumpstart from heaven :)

  10. Karin,
    Not everyone gets "attached" to certain routines. I have spoken about my difficulties with being overly scrupulous in the past and I think that this is part of the reason the Lord "tips my boat upside down on occasion" (among other reasons). I also believe He allows this so that I listen more and speak less. It's rude to do all the talking (lol).

    The Magnificat is awesome! I've already read most of the August edition - it was so beautiful that I couldn't help myself. Of course, I will use it in August too :) God bless!

  11. Puff,
    I think everyone has done this now and then ;)

  12. Anne,
    Thank you for your kind words - ever since I started blogging I have always been touched by your kindness and willingness to help other bloggers. You probably don't remember but when I first started blogging you were so quick to answer any questions I had - everything from Bunco (I think that was the name of the game) to how to put an award on my blog. I'm still touched by all the sea glass you sent me! May God bless you, my friend :) I still laugh when I think of you arranging your own funeral and what people would say when they gathered around your casket - I giggled for days after that one!

  13. "God hides a lot of things from us. Were He to reveal our sinful natures all at once we might be thrown into despair and He doesn't want that so He peels the layers off slowly." So true, Mary! And when He is trying to get me to see myself a little clearer, sometimes I just don't want to know! I'm good at averting my gaze.

    Routines can be evry satisfying, can't they? I can feel good because I have prayed everything I intended. I fitted everything in, regardless of what else was happening. It can be such a sacrifice when routines are interrupted. But what a source of grace when we remain peaceful and offer our acceptance over what we'd have liked to have done, but were unable to do, to God. Hope that makes sense, Mary!

  14. I love the honesty in this post too. It was as if you started wanting to hit a sabbath moment from your vacation, but what came out was what you were working on in your prayer life. What a great love and faithfulness you show! As I was listening to the lightening last night it reminded me how far above my ways are the ways of God so any attempts by me to get to a higher spiritual state, contemplation are really futile. Guess I have a little aridity going on too and could check out the posts from Fr. Joseph Homick recommended by Karinann.

  15. Each day is a learning experience for me. With God along, it is a dual journey to my freedom. Mainly 'trying' to let go and let Him. Thank you Mary for this. Blessings.

  16. Sue,
    I can be pretty good at averting my gaze too! It's getting easier as I get older though to accept what the Lord is trying to show me because I know He's doing it for my good.

    I loved your comment, Sue. This is pretty much what I meant in my post regarding routines. They can be satisfying in themselves and yet our reasons for doing them may not be totally pure. Your comment would make a perfect post, actually :) I tend to be overly "wordy" and need to learn to simplify my writing a bit (lol)!

  17. I really enjoyed this post. I wrote about the same theme this week (perhaps God is trying to emphasize something to both of us, eh? Well, at least I am in good company!)

    Glad to hear the vacation was good!

    God Bless!

  18. Colleen,
    I get sidetracked a lot :) Your comment reminded me that God is always in charge and we need to allow Him to guide us. This post is getting a lot of insightful comments. I like when that happens because it's helpful to everyone and we can see the viewpoints of others. Thanks Colleen!

  19. Hi JBR,
    For me too, my friend :) It's like school except we are in traing for heaven! May our dear Savior flood you with his Mercy and blessings! Hugs!!

  20. Thanks Michael! I'm popping over to your site right now :)

  21. Mary, glad you understood my comment! And you are far from being too 'wordy'. There was so much in your post to think about and comment on. Thank you! I'm off to visit your husband's blog. See you next time.

  22. Thanks, Sue! Randy, as a convert, has an entirely different perspective on Catholicism. I was a "cradle Catholic" and knew the Church inside out but I loved watching Randy learn about our Faith. Seeing the Church through his eyes has been a unique experience for me.

  23. Great post, Mary. And very heartfelt and honest as you always are. We need to pray as we can and not as we cant. All of us are called to pray in the way that is right for us. We need to be open to that call. For some of us a schedule is the right way to go. For some of us, we need silence and/or need to be more receptive. And so forth.
    Prayer is God's work. We just need to show up and say YES.

  24. Colleen,
    Exactly! "Pray as we can not as we can't" - love that! I love the comments people have been leaving on this post and, in a nutshell, your last line says it all.
    I really enjoyed your post on prayer and love yesterday, Colleen!