Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


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A Tedious Time of Prayer

That awkward moment when you’re having a conversation with someone and you run out of things to say. Not that it’s ever happened to me, OK well, it happens all the time. Honestly, I’m not that good of a conversationalist; if you couldn’t tell by the title of my blog, I’m a bit awkward when it comes to social situations. I either say exactly what I’m thinking or I can’t think of something to say, or ask.

Have you ever felt that way? From what Licking EnvelopesI’m told, most people have that experience at some point in their lives. We all seem to know someone with whom we’d like to be friends with… they seem like a great person, with an interesting story, but for some reason whenever you try talking with them it feels like you’re just licking envelopes. If you’ve never sent out over 100 letters before you might have trouble understanding my analogy, but doing a “mass mailing” is one of the most tedious and time consuming things. And having to seal all those envelopes becomes the bane of your existence.

I feel that way in prayer… a lot. I try to pray a lot. I say lots of Rosaries and Chaplets of Divine Mercy, I read the Scriptures most days, I say countless prayers for others, yet I constantly feel as if I’m stuck in this situation where I’m talking to a wall, or when it’s going well, I’m having one of those conversations where neither one of us seems able to find something to say. For me, this is a very frustrating experience.

As I ponder it, I believe it a profoundly good and necessary one. Because of this experience many of us think that we just don’t know how to pray, or that God isn’t listening, or that prayer just doesn’t work. But the reality is, the experience of dryness or tedious prayer actually deepens our souls and connects us to God in a profound way. Just like when a person who is trying to change his diet to eat healthy and get into shape; compared to the sugary, processed foods with tons of flavor, the healthy food is bland and boring. Eventually though, the person realizes that the healthy food is more robust and good than initially thought and those sweet, processed foods are sickening and simply make you feel awful.

In this awkward prayer, God is training us to let go of our addiction to emotional prayer and to trust in his goodness and love. Like in marriage, I don’t love my wife because of all the emotions she gives me, because honestly, they’re not all positive. Rather, I love her because of who she is, for her own sake. And that’s what God wants of us too! He wants a pure love, a pure life, a pure hope! Only in a pure heart, one that loves without thought of self can we truly discover who we’re meant to be.

In the “Song of Songs”, one of the most beautiful and powerful books in the Bible, we are told, “Do not arouse, do not stir up love before it’s own time,” (Songs 2:7). And I think this passage is talking about our addiction to emotional prayer. It is not a bad thing, but when we depend upon it to gauge our prayer lives, it can become deadly. Allow God to stir up and inflame our hearts, in his time, and remain faithful. You will be blessed beyond understanding. That prayer you struggle with will eventually bear fruit, in God’s time. Every night ends, no matter how dark. Before we know it we will declare, like the beloved in Song of Songs, “Before I knew it, my heart had made me the blessed one of my kinswoman,” (Songs 6:12).


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A Song Out of Tune

That awkward moment when you’re in the department store and a Christmas carol you love, which is actually about Christmas starts playing and you spontaneously begin singing along only to realize that not only are you singing out loud but you’re completely out of tune. So you keep singing but slowly decrease in volume so everyone thinks you meant to sing out loud and out of tune. Of course, I’m always out of tune so that part doesn’t really bother me anymore. In fact, I’ve stopped even trying to sing in tune now.

That same thing happens in our spiritual lives too doesn’t it? We get out of tune spiritually, through our active choices to sin, our passive choices to watch T.V. instead of pray, through someone else’s actions that hurt us and dislodge us from our comfortable and routine faith. Sometimes it’s a combo of all of the above hitting us at once. But whatever the reason, we get knocked out of tune with God and often don’t even realize it. We’re just walking through the aisle of life singing along and suddenly look up and realize we not even singing the same song anymore.

Choir

I’ve known so many young people who started out singing the most beautiful song with their lives only to lose the song along the way; I was one of them. I was blessed though to encounter some truly remarkable “singers” along the way who helped me get back in tune. Probably the most important lesson they taught me was that of regular confession. Nothing in this life can retune your song as quickly or effectively as confession. Of course, by itself Reconciliation isn’t sufficient. There is no simple silver bullet that’ll slay the howling wolf inside us and make our song perfect. God’s grace is sufficient, yes. But God, in his infinite wisdom, made our salvation into a beautiful symphony, not just a solo.

Just as everything in creation was designed to work together in harmony to bring about God’s glory, so to our spiritual lives. Reconciliation, spiritual direction, community life, frequent reception of the Eucharist, adoration, silence, humility, Scripture, prayer, trust and on and on, all play important parts in keeping our spiritual lives in tune with God’s song. Sometimes though, nothing seems to work and it’s a matter of faith, of placing one foot in front of the other, trusting in God’s will. It’s in those times where we begin to understand the meaning behind the words we sing. It’s like when you discover the actual words to a song you’ve been singing your whole life and they’re completely different from what you though they were. Then the song actually makes sense.

Dark NightIn those dark nights when you feel abandoned or lost, as you place one faithful foot in front of the other, you gain clarity. As painful as it may be those faithful, weak steps reveal to us the truth and depth of his love for us. His thirst for you is so utterly complete that he would risk losing you so that you could truly love him in return.

It is not that he abandons us in those moments but rather, he is drawing ever closer; closer to us than we are to ourselves. We just don’t feel or see it. Our emotions, beautiful gifts of God that they are, cloud our vision, are like static on the radio, distorting our song. So he clears away the static of our emotions and senses so that we can hear his song over us clearly.

But no matter where you are in your song, it’s wise to keep an ear out for the tune. It’s all too easy to get distracted or lost in our spiritual songs. And remember, it’s never too late to pick the song back up, even after it’s been dropped for the hundredth time, the thousandth time. That’s the beauty of His song for you… it not only sets the rhythm of our lives, it adjusts and incorporates those missed notes, dropped beats and out of tune vocals.

Matt Redman’s: “The Father’s Song”