Failing at spiritual habits

ENFP. My personality profile. Among other things, for those who are familiar with the Meyers-Briggs Personality Assessment, you recognize these letters as indicating an unstructured personality. So when it comes to incorporating spiritual disciplines into my life, I’ve gone through several phases. I find that they cycle to some extent.

When I was in high school, there was the underlining stage. You know this one. You discover the bible for the first time and every line you read jumps out. So what do you do? You highlight, underline, and circle every passage to the point where more text is marked than is not on a particular page. And if you’re a creative, your strategic use of highlighters create a system.

Green for verses about spiritual growth or maturity. Red for passages that remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Yellow for verses about living in the light. Orange for texts about bearing fruit. Purple for the ones about Jesus as Lord of our lives. Blue, well, you just like blue so it becomes the “holy cow! This is awesome!” color. Soon enough your bible resembles the colors of the rainbow (Can I get a “double rainbow!?”). And then you get stuck. No more to highlight. What I thought would lead to a spiritual pot of gold, eventually left me without a next step. The spiritual discipline slump slithers into your life.

And so does guilt. Eventually you feel so disconnected from God that life’s passion begins to be sucked dry. Time for a new spiritual habit. How about… journaling.

I flirted with journaling in high school, but when college came, I chronicled my life in spiral bound Life Journals. Between 4 and 7 days a week I’d write down what I was learning in my relationship with Jesus through prayer, Scripture, and experiences, while also putting down significant moments in my life. I’d admit my failures, document successes, and agonize over girls in my notebook.

Honestly, this season of my spiritual life (well, I’ve had several cycles in and out of the journals) was amazing. I can go back to those entries and see how God’s been at work. The problem is that rarely can I carve out the 45 mins or more required to make a consistent pattern of documenting my every spiritual thought and deed. I eventually put the pen and pad up on the table and walked away, only to return on rare occasions. In some ways, I suppose that blogging supplements this old practice.

Later I started the practice of my own modified hybrid of centering / listening prayer with prayer against the powers of darkness. I would follow this by reading through a “Mark for EveryoneMark for Everyone” New Testament book and then reflect on what God was teaching me (occasionally journaling). This was a powerful time of connecting with God. Honestly, I can’t remember an intentional season of spiritual habits that were consistently as powerful. God spoke, I listened. Sometimes it was confusing. Other times disappointing. But one thing is for certain: the Holy Spirit showed up.

But again, life transitions led to losing the rhythm that I once had.

Over the past several years, I’ve been searching for the connection that I once had with God. Sometimes, this quest leads to surprise encounters with the Holy Spirit. But more often than not, my sucky pattern of inconstant spiritual habits leads to a relationship with Jesus that often feels like a distant memory. Not because of a legalistic impulse to appease God but because intentionality and action don’t intersect like they once did.

Do you ever find yourself in the vicious cycle of sucking at spiritual habits and feeling like its sucking the life outta ya?


Photo by (Flickr CC): sarowen