I sat in a group a few weeks ago—it was a group of clergy, and someone whose ministry I really respect began to speak of the challenges to his spiritual life. Don said, “Parish life can take it out of me. I get busy, then I get overwhelmed—and my spiritual life suffers. I ‘don’t have time to pray today,’ don’t have time to take my morning walk where my mind clears out. And then I’m in worse shape.” Don paused, then added, “But when that is in place, everything else falls into place.”
As true as that is, it’s no surprise. We all know it. It’s as crazy as saying, “I don’t have time to gas up the car.” But somehow we imagine that we “don’t have time” for our inner lives—that that is a kind of luxury. Not a “got to have” but a “nice to have.” Whereas everything else we’re trying to save is imperiled if the light goes out in our souls.
I remember speaking to a man some years ago. I had emailed about something and a week or two later he had replied, saying he was sorry for the delay but that his life was falling apart. His wife had walked out on him and the kids. It was devastating. I picked up the phone and called. I listened, said I wanted to help. Is there a way we could talk? No, he was headed to the west coast, he was busier than ever these days. What about when he came back? No, after that he had a million things to do. He’d maybe call me someday . . . .
Some saint or another said, “I am too busy not to pray.” An example, I always thought, of impractical piety, uttered by someone who didn’t live the busy life I did! Then after a lot of years of doing it my way and mostly losing, I came to understand that these are actually the words of someone who is quietly wise. I will in fact be sharper, clearer, more focused and more productive if I take time to center myself in God. And the “more I have to do” the more I need to be centered. It turns out to be the most practical, realistic and useful way to live.