Pursuing results

I am thinking tonight about how absolutely gung-ho we all are about “results.” We judge whether something is worth doing by the results we can expect from it. I am not just talking about something that happens in our workplace either. We go through some form of mental calculus about the amount of skin-darkening sunshine we might be able to absorb before venturing out by the pool with our towel. I have to somehow be assured that my occasional stints in front of the TV will pay off with some degree of added entertainment or information value or the provision of some mind-numbing background while laundry is being folded.

But everything has to pass the “results test,” or it just doesn’t fly.

Which is exactly the way we also approach our pursuit of the spiritual disciplines. Our question becomes, “What will I get out of…?”, fill in the blank. Sure I will pray, or worship, or meditate, or fast, or study but first tell me what the payoff will be. And how soon I will receive it, too.

We have enough spiritual awareness to know that our peace, our joy, our contentment will not come from such transitory sources as our jobs, home, or hobbies. We know that God is the source of everything, tangible and intangible.  So we seek to bend our efforts to solving the equation, “X hours of the practice of the classic spiritual disciplines equals Y units of spiritual maturity.” We’re not sure what the answer is, but we know we need more Y, so we pile on a double helping of X.

The problem then comes when we don’t see the level of spiritual maturity (or peace or contentment) that we thought would result from our efforts. We gripe to God. We slack off in our practices. We wonder what the point is.

Here’s a head scratcher for you: what if the point is not “results” at all? What if there is a completely different reason we engage the spiritual disciplines other than what we will get out of it?

Well, the fact of the matter is, there IS a completely different reason. Shockingly it turns out that the reason we pray, or meditate, or fast, or worship has very little to do with us and a WHOLE LOT to do with God. It is hard-wired into our DNA. Our practice of turning toward God through one of the many modalities commonly in use today is nothing more and nothing less than the proper response of creatures reaching toward the Creator. The fact that certain types of results often follow and that people talk and write about them is all well and good. But it is clearly beside the point. We pray because we were made to pray.

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