Undisciplined discipline

I think a lot about discipline. About the ability to follow through, to finish, to complete. For a perfectionist like myself, the hardest part of discipline is the repetition without completion. The reason, I suppose, that spiritual pursuits are often called practices, and why Ignatius called his method “exercises.”

I struggle to be at peace with being unfinished. I get impatient. I create false benchmarks and often, quite frankly, quit. It’s so easy to get frustrated with western spiritual discipline, especially when “the assertion of willpower over more base desires” is constructed to negate everything I am: physically female, gendered woman, universally and progressively minded.

My Catholic (big C) faith is a long story and a question for another day, but I did not come to it blindly. I actively chose it, and for that I am grateful. This does not mean, however, that I fully understand it. Nor does it mean that I do not doubt, question, or sometimes actively rally against it.

Yet I am compelled to return. I am working to unlink spiritual discipline from punishment and transform it into nourishment. To see if I can sit face to face with the rigid constructs of my chosen faith. To push on the walls of tradition until they crumble; or until they begin to make sense.

The part of Catholicism that I can always practice is the question. The theological orientation that says: We are but an island in a sea of mystery and our job is to extend the island so more mystery can lap against it (credit Sister Peggy). It’s time to make my island a bit more habitable.

“The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds…To ask [questions] is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.”

~Maria Doria Russell, The Sparrow


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