We all have something we’ve been meaning to do or take care of. Maybe it’s folding the laundry and then actually putting it in the drawers. Maybe it’s clicking “Unsubscribe” on the daily junk email or advertisement you keep deleting and it keeps coming. Maybe it’s writing your son’s thank you notes for his birthday that was 3 months ago (not speaking from experience here at all…sorry everyone).
Perhaps the thing you’ve been meaning to do is less tangible. Maybe it’s calling a friend you haven’t spoke with in a while. Maybe it’s finding some space in your day for quiet stillness. Maybe it’s a lifestyle change – food, exercise, schedule, etc.
Something I’ve noticed about putting things off, tangible or not, is that the longer I wait, the larger the task becomes. It’s easy to see with the tangible things. For example, the laundry. The longer I leave the basket of clean but not folded or organized clothes out, the harder it becomes to put away. Everyone starts shifting through the clothes, finding what they need and leaving the pile behind them. After a few days, it almost makes sense, in some twisted logic kind of way, to just leave it. The basket is half empty and laundry day is coming up again soon anyway. Just let it ride and I can try again next time.
For some things, it becomes embarrassing. Take the example of the thank you notes that in no way are one of the key points of inspiration for this blog post. The longer we waited to write them, the more embarrassing it got in my head. But, instead of buckling down and just writing the darn things, I would conveniently find something else that needed to be done since I didn’t want to own up to the fact that the cards would be so late.
Procrastinating on more intangible things is just as problematic. I think we all probably have a friend that we wish we kept in better touch with. I know I do. Quite a few in fact. We have so many means of communication at our disposal – email, Facebook, texting, a phone call. But, at least for me, I find it hard to connect with someone when we’ve been out of touch for a period of time. Maybe this is a side-effect of our ability to have constant communication and connection. Since I don’t know everything that has happened to them over the past few months and they don’t know what has happened to me, how can we possibly catch up all that time? It becomes a barrier to reaching out at all, which means I’m missing out on some special relationships because of my own hang-ups and tendency to over-think everything.
While I’ve been thinking about things I’ve been meaning to do, coincidentally while avoiding doing these exact things (a laundry basket is within eyesight, I promise to fold it tonight….or tomorrow), I stumbled across the thought that maybe this is one reason why it hard for people to start to pray after avoiding it. Think about the reasons why we might not strike up a conversation with someone who we haven’t talked with in a while. You don’t know where they are in life anymore. You don’t know what trials they have faced. What if you bring up something awkward or accidentally stir a pot you didn’t realize you were stirring? What they do the same for you? They don’t know what’s been happening with you. I imagine that some of these thoughts might be played out in our minds when we think about our conversations, or lack of them, with God.
The thing that we have probably forgotten in all our wonderings is that unlike our friend who hasn’t been walking our journey with us, God has. We might not have been talking to him, but He has been talking to us. While we were neglecting to include Him in our daily routines, He has been ever-present. So the thought that God may not know what we’ve been going through is simply not true. No matter what we’ve encountered and regardless of how long it’s been, God wants to renew His relationship with us.
Thankfully, God isn’t like the laundry basket, slowly being emptied only to be refilled with more dirty laundry. God is always ready for us, always willing to be with us and always, even in this moment, actively pursuing us. When coming to God in prayer, especially after a period of silence, don’t get hung up on what you haven’t been saying. Just start talking.
Pray as you can, not as you can’t.
God answers every prayer… and sometimes He says “No” or “Wait”.
If you experience dryness in prayer or a time when you come to Mass and feel like you didn’t get anything out of it, then that’s a good day… That’s a day where you get to choose to love God for His sake and not for what He can do for you.
Father Mike Schmitz