With the fall comes a busier schedule. Across the United States, vacations end, kids go back to school, fall activities get underway and the push toward end-of-year goals begins. Life at Carroll gets busy, too. The fall semester brings welcomed energy to campus after a quiet summer. Like the new and returning students, faculty and staff are eager to plunge into the exhilarating work of learning and growing. But, we all know, busyness also brings challenges, especially when it comes to making space for our spiritual wellness.
It’s hard to find the freedom in one’s schedule for spirit work. Time for prayer or meditation, personal reflection and sacred community can often sink down to the bottom of our to-do lists. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to resist the broader cultural value of production over purpose. If it can’t be quantified, it’s hard to justify. I see this regularly in Carroll’s students, who are almost habitually overscheduled, trying to do it all, be it all and get it all done perfectly. Like so many of us supposedly skilled at “adulting,” college students pile on responsibilities, both real and imagined. But without time dedicated to spiritual health, novice and learned adults alike may become dry, disconnected and aimless. Eventually, we may become so skilled at ignoring signs of spiritual malnutrition that we lose connection with our meaning and wellbeing altogether.
I think of this condition as being spiritually absent from oneself. We go missing from our own lives. We forget to take joy in the simple moments. We forget to be grateful for the blessings of relationships and take others for granted. We forget that the path toward a whole and abundant life is always right before us. When we are spiritually absent, we stop seeing ourselves and the world as we truly are: held by grace. We may misinterpret this as God being absent or distant or impotent in our lives, but the truth is, we are the ones who get lost. God is there in the thick of life’s joys and struggles, and we are off somewhere else killing time.
In the ebb and flow of my own spiritual journey, complete with its dry moments, I have found only one remedy for spiritual absence: committing time for spiritual work. We commit time for career and family, for service and leadership and for our workouts and diet (or we shame ourselves for not doing so). Scheduling time with God, for God, sometimes feels hard to justify, but, at least for me, it’s necessary if I want to stay present in my life.
Agenda-free time in prayer and reflection provides rest from the daily grind. It increases our awareness of joy and abundance during even the busiest seasons. It makes us more grateful and empowers us to love others well. And it enables clearer discernment of a meaningful path, one marked by spiritual unity rather than separation. Most of all, through regular, committed time in God’s Presence we return to ourselves. There, in our own souls, we are refreshed by the abiding grace and peace of God. There, reconnected again, our wandering spirits find home.