Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
That is how psychiatrist M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled begins. The late Dr. Peck thought that realizing this truth might make our life somehow more free, less of an imposition. Perhaps he hoped that, if we could start with an awareness that “life is difficult,” we might have a better chance of keeping our resolve to grumble less and praise more; complain less and see the good more. I suspect that, like all of us, he must have struggled with that resolve. Life is difficult, but it sure beats the alternative.
At the gym last week, a person on the treadmill remarked that he had missed seeing me. I explained that I had a meeting that kept me at work late. Then I confessed that I probably still could have made it, but I’m prone to let almost anything interfere with my workout. He admitted that he, too, would do almost anything to avoid sweating … anything but get fat.It is interesting that our vanity can motivate us to exert and deprive ourselves, but that is too much to ask for our soul’s sake. We somehow feel that we magically should become stronger, healthier, more profoundly spiritual people.
Lent calls us to an awareness that the spiritual life is difficult, but it beats the alternative. Spiritual weakness, disease, and death are epidemic. That can be seen easily in how we treat one another, how we spend our time and money, how little effort we make to leave the world better than we found it.
So, before another Lenten season passes by, how might you exercise your soul so that it will be stronger and healthier? What might you deprive yourself of so that you will be a better witness for the Christ on whose resurrection life we are counting?
If being spiritually healthy isn’t difficult then we probably aren’t really trying very hard. Still, it sure beats the alternative.
by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal