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Facing the things in our lives that hold us back from God

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Cecilia Pigg - published on 04/09/24

In any relationship, it is possible to drift away from the other person without even realizing it. That is also true of our relationship with God.

I was taken by surprise when I realized how I was slowly drifting away from my husband. We still went on dates occasionally and we spent lots of time in the house together, so could we really be that far apart? The answer was yes — and I tried to pinpoint what had happened. I had stopped texting him “just because” while he was at work, figuring it wasn’t that important and not wanting to interrupt the rhythm of my day to check in. I began resenting it whenever he asked if I could make coffee in the morning, never did it without him asking, and stopped going out of my way to do anything for him, to be honest.

I also began avoiding bringing up any real issues between us that might cause conflict. That way there could be a veneer of peace in our relationship. The status quo could remain — that we were generally happily married, living our lives as normal.

But that only lasts so long. Eventually, you realize how lonely you are, and that you want desperately to be fully seen and known. It takes work to stay united in any relationship, especially marriage. But it is possible (baby step by baby step) to start building or re-building the union between two people. I’ve experienced that with my husband over the years.

Seeking a path

Recently, however, I’ve been looking at all of this as it pertains to God. I want to discover the little things that make me drift away from Him; the little things that block true union with Him.

Enter St. John of the Cross, the Carmelite mystic, reformer and doctor of the Church. In my lay discalced Carmelite community, I’ve been reading from Fr. Marc Foley’s book of commentary alongside John of the Cross’s The Ascent of Mount Carmel. In the Ascent, St. John lays out a path to union with God, and discusses what things hold us back from that union.

St. John’s writing can be heavy and sometimes hard to follow or understand. Thankfully, Fr. Foley’s commentary has been very helpful and practical in shedding light on St. John’s thought.

Focusing on overreactions

Fr. Foley recommends one simple way to become aware of what little things keep us from God and growth in our spiritual life. These little things might be common habits that we do automatically, without thinking about them. To discover these, he suggests focusing on your overreactions throughout the day.

Take notice when some kind of monkey wrench is thrown into your plans and you react strongly. When do you get bent out of shape during the day? Does the fact that my three-year-old threw the new bag of apples on the ground, thus bruising them all, warrant my seething and snapping? Does my husband’s unorthodox and not particularly efficient way of loading the dishwasher warrant an immediate onset of grumpiness? Noticing my reactions can clue me in to what little things I’m inordinately attached.

Noticing “the drift”

Maybe you too have realized you’re drifting away from God. Perhaps you are only spending time that you absolutely have to in His presence. Maybe you aren’t checking in with quick prayers throughout the day. Perhaps you aren’t bringing any real issues to Him in prayer because you just want to preserve a veneer of peace, not trusting that He will answer you or really wants what is best for you.

Or maybe you just want to do some proactive work to grow in your relationship with God and not stagnate. Noticing where your energy is going in the day, and what you overreact to might help your awareness on that path.

St. John of the Cross, pray for us! Come Holy Spirit!

Tags:
Personal GrowthRelationshipsSpiritual Life
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