In a matter of days we’ll be joined by returning students and the class of 2016. A new semester is often full of new intentions, and sometimes a few promises that will be hard to keep. A lot of families are in our prayers as they prepare to send their sons and daughters on their own journey. Many are wondering what to send along, what to pack, what to say, what absolutely not to forget.
There’s a great story I learned through the t-shirt print above, in which the mother of a child headed to seminary tries to come up with just the right words to christen his journey. “Go to church. Say your prayers. Remember God.”
As many of us are looking towards the semester ahead, we are considering how a “rule of life” might shape a routine of deepening surrender to God. It’s a process of asking what relationships, roles, and practices are most critical to remaining open to God’s work in and through us. It’s a process that reminds me that the spiritual life is not a matter of knowing enough, but simple daily practice choosing God’s will over my own. It is not a series of epiphanies or appointments with transcendent bliss, but a persistent, “long obedience in the same direction,” which not only “shapes” a life but is a life with God.
So what’s the best advice, insight, intention to start a semester? We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got full calendars and thick relational networks in place when we arrive. It can be discouraging to imagine that I’ve got to do something else on top of all that. Especially when I want to be a gold medalist in spiritual disciplines.
Maybe it’s simple. I would like to think I could come up with better ideas, do more, be more. Maybe, instead, I could learn a better way of thinking; one that comes from the right community, the right understanding of my place in the world, and the right habits of attention.
Go to church. Say your prayers. Remember God.
That’s a decent start. If I start there, everything else may end up just as it should.