Well, it’s been almost a week since our couple’s retreat, where we examined the health of our bodies, minds and souls and created what I think are some good goals for us to strive for in the next year – and our plans were almost immediately kerfuffled – partly by the lingering “bug” that’s left us stuffy, headachy and listless; partly by the “fall back” time change, which is always disorienting, even after gaining an hour that first day; partly by basic inertia. We’re basing our daily success this week on being able to maneuver vertically through space; anything else is above and beyond.
Our very modest commitment to more daily exercise – nuh-uh. My commitment to less evening snacking – if anything, I’ve become more ravenous, almost Dagwoodian, after 7:00 pm. Daily devotions together? Not yet.
I’ve heard this phenomenon framed in terms of cosmological battle: As soon as you begin on a journey of wellness, spiritual and otherwise, the Adversary immediately gets busy setting roadblocks in the path, or creating distracting avenues to nowhere along the way.
I’m not sure that I want to be that cosmic about our kerfufflement. What I think is that human beings hate to change. We really, really hate it. As soon as we commit to a change, a part of our psyche digs its heels into the ground: Noooooooo! You can’t make me! Knowing the strength of the mind-body connection, I’m thinking that even our slow recovery from our illness is a kind of defense mechanism against change: How can you expect me to do all this new stuff when I feel so bad? Ditto the mechanism behind my increased hunger: Omigod! I’m going to starve! I’d better load up now before the food gets cut off!
I think one of the values of both spiritual direction and of cognitive therapy is to remind us that these sorts of reactions to change and growth are natural; but that once we have more insight into the “whys” of our feelings and behaviors, we’re more empowered to counter their irrational elements, and discover better strategies for overcoming those things that keep us stuck where we are.
Julian of Norwich compared the spiritual path to carrying a heavy load home to one’s master while walking along a ditch; every so often one becomes unbalanced and falls into the ditch. Knowing that our God is a God who understands, in a most intimate way, our burdens and weakness, who loves us and who forgives us when we take that periodic header into the ditch, can give us the faith and courage not to give up; to rebalance ourselves and keep going. And Christian community, in our own homes and without, can give us a continued hand up back onto the path.
Today's a new day. We'll see where it takes us.