A Space to Do What I Cannot Do

I don’t have a lot of willpower. It’s not that I can’t resist the urge to wolf down all the cookies or anything, though I have been known to go through an entire package of crackers before I realize it. It’s more a matter of trying to break bad habits or faithfully keep others. I fully intend to spend that time praying each day or responding to those emails sooner or reading those books or maybe just not trying to find the next amusing tidbit on the web. Or at least, I fully intend at the time. It just doesn’t tend to last, and I find myself, even with reminders staring me in the face, forgetting and letting it all slide.

One thing I have figured out is that I do have the willpower at times to put myself in a place where I don’t have to exercise willpower so much. Retreats are wonderful for this. Maybe I can’t spend a day in prayer and reflection with God when I’m sitting on my couch with the laptop nearby and the refrigerator a few steps away, but when I stick myself in a place that doesn’t have these options, suddenly it’s a little easier to follow through with those original intentions. If I don’t have the option of distracting myself so much, I’m not so easily distracted.

Retreats aren’t the only option for this, but they certainly are one. Sometimes I find the subway rides helpful if I don’t bring a book, simply because I’m stuck for the next 45 minutes with only my thoughts, my feelings, and the presence of the Holy Spirit (and, I suppose, umpteen dozen other people, but strangers don’t actually communicate in this culture).

I don’t have the willpower, in the midst of thousands of options, to always choose what is good. But I do, at least sometimes, have the willpower to remove myself from all the options. And sometimes this is the place where I can find the presence of God in myself and the world around me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a web to surf and a refrigerator to raid.

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