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Fish For Yourself

I sat comfortably on my deck chair, ready to enter into meditation.

The sun shone warmly on my back and shoulders and the sounds of the waves gently rolling onto the rocks below my high perch promised to take me into a deeply relaxed state very quickly. Before I closed my eyes, though, I saw a curious sight.

I paused to watch as a large brown pelican soared over the water below. A seagull was his wing man, just off to the left. The pelican was fishing. He spotted something and tucked his wings closely beside his body, diving straight down into the water. The seagull dove with him! I was now mesmerized.

Before the pelican was completely up from his strike, the seagull landed on his back and began to peck at the small fish in his beak, trying desperately to get his beak open and steal his breakfast. If the pelican had opened his mouth just slightly, I thought that the seagull surely would have jumped right in!

This scene played itself out three more times before the pelican and his pesky “friend” moved out of my view, around the other side of the island where my husband and I were taking our vacation. As I settled back, ready now to go into my meditation, I had a profound sense of déjà vu.

My spiritual focus lately has been taking me to a place of realization that I have been like that seagull in my life, wanting to coast along beside some other spiritual giant and absorb her peace, centeredness, tranquility and grace.

For a long time I did not exert the discipline necessary to find and develop those qualities within my own experience.

It can be all too easy to wake up in the morning, reach for the iPhone and allow it to distract us from the spiritual practices which are our acts of fishing for ourselves, can’t it? Before you know it, it is the end of the day, and you are out of time to meditate, pray, read Scripture, journal or do any of the spiritual practices which keep you in touch with the Divine.

I read a book not too long ago by two young brothers, teenagers (at the time) Alex and Brett Harris. Their book sparked a “rebelution,” as they called it. Do Hard Stuff is the great title of their book. In the introduction to the fifth anniversary edition, they quote GK Chesterton, who said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

This might be said of any strong, disciplined spiritual focus, not just Christianity. It’s not easy to discipline the self – often we want to travel the path of least resistance, but I have found that developing spiritual practices and the spiritual formation which comes from doing them diligently takes more than simply coasting or absorbing it from someone else.

We need to do our own fishing!

We will never see our lives transformed spiritually if we try to skip that step and simply grasp for spiritual formation based on someone else’s experiences–even if that someone is a trusted pastor, spiritual guide, guru or monk. We still have to do the work of the spiritual discipline ourselves.

What are the ways you successfully orient your day so that you are able to focus well on daily spiritual practices? Where are the pitfalls for you and how do you move past them?

Read more posts by Beth Misner, a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.