I Used to Be a Contemplative

I haven’t been getting a lot of down time lately. In the last few weeks I’ve started a new full-time job, and we’ve welcomed our son George into the world.

It’s a lot. This is probably the most intense and full my life has ever been. My days are full of wonderful work out in the city, and my nights are packed with family. Everything is exciting and new right now, though I sort of wish we could have spaced all of this excitement out over a few months rather than a couple of weeks!

This experience has me thinking about what it means to live a life of prayer. You see, despite my penchant for action and activity, I’ve lived a pretty contemplative life so far. I’m used to spending a dedicated portion of my day in prayer, religious study, and generally focused on ministry.

All of a sudden, though, all of my routines have gone out the window. I’m scrambling to adapt to a whole new rhythm of life. These days, I’m mumbling a prayer over my breakfast cereal as I get ready for work. I’m listening to Christian rock (God help me) on the commute across town. I’m making sure I show up at New Community Church on Sunday mornings, just so there’s somewhere I’ve got a spiritual anchor during the week.

I know things won’t be like this forever. I’ll settle into my new job. We’ll eventually be able to sleep through the night as our boy grows a little older. I’ll find my prayerful routines again. But right now, I can barely see straight.

All this makes me wonder, what was the basis of my contemplative lifestyle all this time? Is time for prayer a monastic privilege? Does attentiveness to God require some sort of special circumstance, beyond the reach of most ordinary mortals who have to balance work and family? 

I’ve never believed that before, and I don’t believe it now. But I’m getting a new perspective on how truly challenging it can be to stay focused on God in the midst of full-time life. It’s no coincidence that Jesus called his disciples away from their families and 9-to-5 routines when he invited them to become his friends and confidants.

But I’m clear that’s not the path I’m being called to right now. On the contrary, at this stage in my life, I believe God is inviting me into the full-time experience of being a father, husband, and working professional. 

I know that so many of you have the experience of walking this path. How did you do it? Have you been able to maintain a life of prayer and attention to God in the midst of all of your work and family responsibilities? What does it look like to be a disciple and a worker, a parent and a friend of Jesus?

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