Learning to be Scrappy in the Spiritual Life
My father was the first son of a single mom who had next to nothing. He never graduated from college but with hard work and tough lessons, he was able to retire by the age of 45.
I learned a lot from him growing up. One principle that he worked hard to teach me was to be “scrappy.” He taught me to be scrappy in life and this scrappiness has also translated well to developing a healthy prayer life. I am by no means perfect in the virtues associated with being scrappy, but I have found that to the degree that I rely upon God and pursue the principles he taught me, I have been able to make progress. What does a scrappy person look like? Here are a few characteristics translated into spiritual terms:
They are positive – Every obstacle they encounter is simply an indication that they need to find a way around that obstacle. Often obstacles indicate opposition that may reveal that they are on the right track. When they know they are opposed by the enemy of their souls, they are encouraged.
They are resourceful – No matter what the obstacle, they never stand helpless but immediately begin to look for solutions. By the grace of God, they almost never fail to find solutions even if they seem to be incomplete or imperfect.
They are trusting – They know that God is in control and that every obstacle is one that is provided for their sanctification. Knowing this, they have some peace that God will help them overcome and that they will learn from their failures.
They have a long view – They know that sometimes answers don’t come in the short-term but that the most important things in life are often only attained after long toil in the right direction.
They are resilient – They never give up when it comes to the most important things in life.
They are consistent – They get up every day and engage in prayer no mater how they feel or whatever the circumstance. They recognize that God can’t help someone who refuses to engage every day.
They are humble – They are quick to seek help when they can’t seem to find a way on their own. They know they don’t know or see everything and thus regularly seek the counsel of others.
They know from whence comes their strength and salvation – they know that they are weak and incapable of making progress on their own and that the source of strength and real solutions can only come from God. They also know that God always delivers on His promises.
Yes, prayer is a battle. Battlefields are no place for the under-committed. For those who are willing, the battle will be won because God is faithful and they are engaged.
All that said, sometimes we just don’t have the raw material from which to rely on either to get started, or get un-stuck. Being scrappy implies that we have a reasonable understanding of the domain we operate in. We know the right people, we understand the resources available to us, etc. In the realm of prayer and the interior life, most Catholics have never been given even the most basic formation regarding how to successfully navigate their interior life and grow in their relationship with God.
Be scrappy, my friends, and you will know a joy and peace that you never thought possible.
Art: The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Carlo Dolci, circa 1630; Fresken der Kapelle der Eleonora da Toledo im Palazzo Vecchio in Florenz, Deckenfresko, Detail: Erzengel Michael [Frescoes of the chapel of Eleonora da Toledo in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, ceiling fresco, detail: Archangel Michael], Angelo Bronzino, 1540-1541; both PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Additional Images from Dan Burke: man-rejoicing.jpg; Woman in Prayer iStock000059070360; feature image: iStock000002848630Medium.jpg, modified.