Too Busy to Pray
I’m too busy to pray.
It was a cold Sunday morning when our priest announced the wondrous news: our parish was only three people away from restarting perpetual adoration, the only parish in the diocese to do so. Three people, each committing to one hour a month. Someone was needed at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays. It was the Sunday before Lent and I, like every Sunday before Lent of my life, was frantically trying to think of what I would do this year to strengthen my relationship with God AND AS A BONUS could possibly serve as something penitential. Inspired by what I was convinced was the Holy Spirit working through the priest, I signed up on the spot.
The next morning, I saw the “Welcome!” email hit my inbox and my immediate, less-than-holy reaction was outrage. (It says a lot about me that I can be so outraged by something happening that I had signed up to do. You should see what happens when it comes time for me to start training for marathons.) No one else had volunteered? I’m training for a half marathon PR and Wednesdays were my only days to run on the local track. I was also working full time, so having to get ready to be at church for an hour so early will throw off my routine, and my routine must be preserved because I’m so busy.
I groaned, put down my coffee, and pretended not to see the email for a little while. Am I willing to give up my PR dreams for Jesus? Because it was Lent, the answer was yes.
My distaste for the word “busy” stems from the fact that I use the word to try to get out of things that are likely good for me but are not appealing in that moment. I have been too busy to go to the dentist, to go for a run, to update my address on my license, to call a friend on the phone. I have never been too busy to watch hours of the Food Network. I am someone who loves to fill up my calendar with things to do but whines when I need to leave the couch for something as predictable as going to work. I like being engaged and active but hate having to do things. To get out of things, I fake being sick, claiming I’ve come down with a bad case of busyness.
I am most commonly too busy to run, and to pray, and I occasionally play doing one off of doing the other. When I was assigned the seven o'clock time slot I was worried about how it would affect my training routine, reminding myself that God would want me to be healthy for my family. That same Sunday I was inspired to sign up for adoration in the first place, I was explaining to my husband why going to that particular Mass (earlier than our usual one) was more important than going for a long run, because strengthening my soul is more important than strengthening my body.
But these two things -- running and prayer -- do not actually conflict with one another. They both ground me. Having a calendar full of things excites me, but when I am left ungrounded, this excitement can run over and begin to consume itself and ultimately me. My sense of accomplishment (“Wow, what a week!”) becomes a sense of dread (“Wow, what a week.”) and becomes a sense of anguish (“Why do I have to do so much in a week?”). This cycle does not make me a better wife, daughter, sister, or friend. Instead this cycle drains me. I retreat into myself, on the couch, an unfruitful and ungrateful mess with nothing to show for it but a new recipe for random basket ingredient ice cream. I feel defeated.
Unsurprisingly to everyone but me, dedicating one hour of my month to adoring our Lord did not leave me feeling defeated that Lent. It did the opposite. An hour of silence and reflection in the morning left me feeling more awake and focused on my tasks that day. Adjusting my track sessions was a blessing in disguise -- it turns out the local high school marching band practices on Wednesday evenings, providing some great pump up tunes for 400 meter repeats. And for the first time in a while, I felt grounded.
Alexandra is a New Jersey native getting used to running in the heat of Virginia. She's a bit of a Pope Francis fangirl, and wrote her M.A. thesis on the political philosophy in his writings. She currently works as an academic advisor for undergraduate students and in her free time she likes to grade seminar papers and crush Jeopardy categories. Her current goals are to PR at the Philadelphia Marathon, and to PR at the number of mornings where she remembers to pray morning prayer.