When I was asked to write this blog, this topic immediately popped into my brain. I should have learned by now not to trust my instincts. This has proven harder to write about than I thought. The problem is that the squirrels in my brain couldn’t come to an agreement. My original writing had the appearance of a bunch of thoughts strung together that created a puzzle that looked more like a Picasso painting. Although each thought was correct on its own, together they were just confusing. Let me try this again and hope that this turns out halfway coherent.
This is a question I wrestle with quite often. Faith should be easy. Jesus gave us rules to follow and a simple set of instructions. Something about loving each other. Sounds easy right. Then why does faith feel like such a struggle at times? I would say that my faith journey started about seven years ago. It felt so easy at first. Since then it has been a roller coaster of good one minute, a struggle the next. Depending on where we are on our faith timeline, the struggle can be completely different. Instead of saying “struggle”, I am going to describe it as mental blocks, because that is probably more accurate. By block, I simply mean that we have convinced ourselves of some sort of false truth (does that even make sense) that blocks us from seeking the real truth. Let me explain using some examples.
I grew up in a house that was not overly religious. I was taught to believe in God. But, beyond that, there was not a lot of activity. Church attendance was sporadic at best. I labeled regular church goers as weird or bible thumpers. Neither of which did I want anything to do with. I must have had some sort of fear that I would sit around a campfire singing kumbaya or something. You get the picture. Not that there’s anything wrong with campfires or singing. That actually sounds like fun now. I just knew, at the time, that wasn’t for me. So, I didn’t pursue any type of faith life.
That was my block. I thought it was OK to believe in God without being “religious”. In other words, I had convinced myself of a false truth. I continued this thought process through college and into my adult life until eventually my journey led me to the truth.
Being religious and a believer go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, mental blocks can also occur after you engage your faith life. At the time I am writing this blog, I,myself, am engaged in a spiritual drought that I can’t seem to get past. I know I need to take certain steps to help myself, but I keep talking myself out of it.
For example, I know the Holy Spirit is calling me to spend more time in Adoration or pray a Rosary. Instead, I tell myself that I will do it later. As an alternative I lay on the couch or play Xbox (insert old guy playing Xbox joke here). Why do I do it? I don’t know. I have a block that I can’t get past even though I know that my current path is unhealthy for me spiritually. This last example applies to many friends of mine as well. Men that I hold in high regard when it comes to faith. Men that I have looked up too and sought guidance from. Many of them have fallen into old habits and can’t get past their mental blocks.
I have shared a little from my life but there is one example that I think applies to millions of people. It hit me during a movie that I watched recently. My wife and I went to see I Can Only Imagine a few days ago. No need for a spoiler alert as this is not a movie review. It is, however, a fantastic movie and I encourage everyone to go see it. During the movie, the main character, Bart, asks his father to attend church, so he can hear Bart sing. It was part of the father’s response that really hit me. He says something like, “I don’t belong there”. That is probably not exactly correct, but you get the gist.
I suppose that mimics how I must have felt as a young man. As though attending church wasn’t for me. It feels weird to even say those words and frankly, when I heard it during the movie, it was rather heartbreaking to think that anyone would feel that way. Nobody should ever feel that attending church is reserved only for certain people. It is clear through scripture that He died for all of us. Again, it is a false truth that creates a mental block to the actual truth.
What is the answer? That is the million-dollar question. The first thing you may want to do is read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. That will provide great insight as to how evil influences our lives. Then ask yourself one question, “What is the truth?”. The last step I would recommend is to do a strong examination of conscience to see what mental blocks may exist in your life. If you are Catholic, go to the Sacrament of Confession.
The most important advice I can recommend is to keep moving forward in your faith. Even if it is just tiny steps. Never try to fight this battle alone. Seek guidance from friends, family, clergy and anyone you feel is spiritually strong. Remember friends, faith is like a teeter totter. You are either going up or down. When you are down, you have to push to make the teeter totter go up. When you are down in your faith life, it takes an effort to get back on top again. With that, I will say farewell.
Peace my friends. Feel free to reach out to me anytime.