A huge challenge of learning to live life in the middle lane is that much of my spiritual growth and sobriety-abstinence has come to revolve around the belief that like a shark, you either swim or you drown. Or, to earn my recovery and faith, I have to run for my life.
To run for my life is to always be doing things: Helping to teach the R.C.I.A (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults), writing like it’s my last day on Earth, cramming a million activities into a road trip.
This leads to a lot of confusion on my part, and the result is a life thrown out of balance (a topic I covered in the post “Back Where I Belong“). But every once in awhile, people who are smarter than me bring home the point that there’s an art to the running; a way to do it without leaving people who need you in the dust.
The new pastor at my church, Father Tim Kearney, drove home the point in a column he wrote for the weekly church bulletin about how it’s much more important to do God’s work than to simply talk about how important it is. He used a Mother Theresa example where she’s listening to a young seminarian talk about the need to care for poor, sick, starving children. She hands the young man a baby to feed and take care of and walks away. Why talk about how important it is when you can just do it?
I’m not sure I captured the example with 100 percent precision, since I’m working off of memory at the moment. But you get the idea.
The second example came during my 12-Step study meeting last night, where we focused exclusively on Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
The evening’s speaker was an elderly woman, sober for many years now, who explained that this step is what has made it possible for her to live the other steps, which are all about action.
The need to meditate and pray so you can jump into action the right way.
It’s not like I didn’t already know about this. Erin makes a point to sit in a chair, do a reading and pray about it just about every morning. But she’s always been more patient than me.
I think yesterday God was talking to me, trying to remind me that yes, action is what’s needed, but that action and running are not the same thing.
Father Kearney’s example of action revolved around patience and slow, deliberate movement — not bouncing all over the place like an atomic tennis ball.
That’s something I still need to work on.
The other thing I’m learning is that action can and should be close to home as much as possible, not all over creation.
All this will be put to the test in the next two weeks. Saturday I take the kids on a 2-hour drive to Fall River for a Scouts camping trip at Battleship Cove (we’re bunking in the bowels of one of the battleships). The next morning we have to be on the road by 6 a.m. to get to church in time for Sean to do his part in a “Passion play” for the Palm Sunday children’s Mass. That afternoon, we’re having one of two birthday parties for Sean’s 10th birthday. From there it’s vacation week, complete with painting, cleaning and various appointments.
It’s the action of being present for family — the most important kind there is.
And for me, sometimes, the hardest action to master.