And yet I catch myself expecting, looking, wanting to see tangible results. I'm an action oriented, results driven kind of guy. This slow, tedious plodding grates at my body.
So I find myself in a season where I'm diving back in. Fiddling with fasting. Playing at prayer. Dabbling in reflective journaling. Walking along in the dark under a canopy of stars, breath visible in the cold, my prayers go out and seem unheard, aimless. I listen and hear nothing.
Confiding this recently with some close friends, one of them shared an image that really landed and stuck in my soul.
He said, "The spiritual disciplines are like a trellis for the soul."
I know what a trellis is. You don't wander the streets of seaside Italian towns like we have and not know what they are. I've got a backyard garden with several that hold up zucchinis and peppers and beans. The concept is simple: a solid, vertical guide to which a living organism can attach itself in order to rise off the ground and approach the sun.
I smile as I type.
I am a living organism who desperately wants to rise above the ground I was buried in. I need something solid and vertical that I can attach myself to, that will take me higher and help me approach the source of life.
Suddenly, the frustration I feel about not sensing God's presence, about not hearing his voice. About not seeing results. Suddenly, the frustration is muted. The impatience diminished. It's replaced with a gentle reminder that as I practice these age old disciplines, I am allowing the tendrils of my soul to grab hold of solid, trusted guides that bring me ever higher.
Can you relate to feeling stuck? Find yourself giving up? Struggle to muster up the energy to try again? Can I encourage you to let this image give you strength to give it another shot?
(Here is a handy list of some of the basic disciplines.)