BRIAN — DAY 37: Get Back up Again

Michael Caine
“Why do we fall, sir?” “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” — Alfred to Bruce Wayne

I failed to pray for 10-15 minutes both yesterday and the day before.

I could say I have a good excuse. When it comes to excuses, I always do.

On Monday, I attended a funeral, so technically, I was in a prayerful atmosphere for 15+ minutes. Yesterday, I just flat-out did not make my mark.

This is something that really would have bothered me in the past. Lent can be a legalist’s paradise; 40 days of abstaining from or performing an activity is just the thing to whet a rule-lover’s appetite. And my spiritual journey has certainly included long forays into scrupulosity. The idea that I must discover some inscrutable, correct way to pray is not a new one.

For some reason, however, I am not particularly concerned this time around. While I believe in keeping my commitments and, in retrospect, would like to have meditated Monday and Tuesday so as to have successfully prayed for 40 days in a row, there is a bigger picture that is worth bearing in mind.

So what is it?

As far as I am concerned, remorse or sorrow over our shortcomings is really only useful to the extent it changes our behavior. And my missed meditations did that. Today, I prayed for about 15 minutes and had one of my best sessions in awhile. Not only did I get the message but I did so without unnecessarily berating myself.

This may seem like a small achievement, but guilt can be a serious trapping in a perfectionist’s spiritual life. Not only do we sometimes struggle to let go of any ill effects of our weaknesses; we go looking for error when there is none to find. As my great uncle, a Catholic priest, once pointed out, “Scrupulosity is seeing sin where it isn’t.”

I do not think my not praying was a sin, but the fact I did not do something I planned to do is, of course, a sign of imperfection. And that is fine. The more I think about my Lenten goal, the more I realize it is not about being perfect or praying a certain amount of time each day for 40 days. That is simply the means to an end. The end is growing deeper in my spiritual life.