After the languid days of summer, September pounces like a roaring lion, ready to devour our time and energy. Seemingly overnight, our calendars are jammed and our days are structured from dawn to dusk and beyond. No matter how many organizational tips we employ or how hard we try to keep our act together, we can’t help but feel frazzled as the demands of family, home, work, and church proliferate.
Unfortunately, the urgent all too often takes precedent with the result that the time we set aside for spiritual growth can feel like stealing minutes away from other, “more important things.” Trust me, it isn’t. If we don’t keep our own spiritual lives intact while dealing with the lion of fall’s complex demands, we will be burned out and crabby long before the holidays, with all their added urgencies, roar in.
So there are four ideas for creating spiritual priorities this fall.
• Put on your own oxygen mask first.
I’ll admit this is hard for me. I always figure there will be time for me—afterwards—but I’m learning it’s important to have my own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist others. This means taking care of the practical aspects of sleep and nutrition, but it also means filling up my spiritual oxygen tank. Without a grounded relationship with God, none of us has what it takes to do the work God has assigned to us. So don’t short-change yourself. Go to daily Mass. Meditate. Journal. Walk a labyrinth. Say a rosary. Read the Scriptures. Do whatever it takes to make sure that your oxygen tank is full and your mask fitted in place, no matter how crazy the schedule gets.
• Work with your limits.
Notice I didn’t say work “within” your limits. We have to do that. But what we often don’t do is work “with” our limits. We have to accept that we have limits and then be willing to do what we can with those limits. For instance, I have a chronic illness. There are many things that I do to work “within” the limits of the disease, but working “with” my limits, seeing just where those limits are and accepting them is much harder. However, when I finally do work with my limits, I find that God is there, helping me discover that what I’ve see as a limit might really be a blessing. It is on the boundary of my limits that I meet God the most profoundly.
• Do little things with purpose
Focusing on each thing as we do it, employing what is called “mindfulness” in the Eastern tradition is very similar to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux called scattering “the little flowers of sacrifice” throughout the day. As Thérèse herself observed, doing these “simple” things is often much more difficult than making great sweeping gestures—and frequently of much greater spiritual value. So do each thing with concentration and grace, turning it into a spiritual exercise—even if it is just putting more paper into the printer or washing up coffee cups.
• Stop rushing!
One of the reasons we feel that our lives have become too complicated is because we dash through our days instead of allowing them to unfold in God’s will. We will never have enough time or energy to do everything we want, including work on our spiritual lives. However, when we place our days in God’s hands---which is the whole point of spirituality—then we will have time to do what we are supposed to. And doing what we are supposed to is the key to turning the raging lion of complexity that arrives each fall into becoming a house cat of spiritual simplicity.