Long-distance running

There’s an episode of “King of the Hill” in which Bobby (perpetually underachieving son of main character Hank) takes up a young, hip form of Christianity.  His group relates to Jesus largely through tattoos and extreme sports.  At the end of the episode, Hank explains his reluctance toward this by pulling out a box of old trendy gismos Bobby has left behind when they weren’t cool anymore, saying, “I don’t want the Lord to end up in this box.”

When I find a new passion, I tend to feel a compulsion to glut myself with it.  I buy all the books, all the materials if such apply; I wolf it down in huge portions of time and effort.  I join organizations, take on jobs.  By the time I realize I’ve exceeded my real interest or the amount of energy I really have, I’m in way over my head.

I don’t want the Lord to end up in that box.  And I’m particularly concerned about doling out my energy wisely since I developed chronic insomnia two years ago.  I’m still in the process of putting my life and my priorities back together, and it’s teaching me to take things in one at a time and in measured steps.  In my spirituality especially, I want every step I take to have its maximum impact and to be sustainable for me in the long term.

So I’ve resisted the temptation to start reading up on monastic life, wedge myself into observing all the Hours, and engage in depth-charge studies of the Bible complete with maps, commentaries, and concordances.  I’m trying to pace myself.  When I feel like this makes me too lukewarm, I try to console myself that on the whole, a smile and a brush of the fingertips every day adds up to more than one bouquet of flowers followed by nothing for a month.

Right now, that means saying the Lord’s Prayer in the evening instead of trying to follow the Hours, and reading through the Bible once for general familiarity before I start combing through it like a graduate student.  (I’m using an amusing tool for that at biblestudytools.com, where you can set up a Bible reading plan and check off the passages you’ve read as you go.  Sometimes I read a few days’ worth at a time instead of one, but I don’t let myself gorge.  The site also has a lot of material for deeper studies, and more than a dozen translations, so I’m able to work with the NSRV rather than some random denomination’s pet variant.)

How do you find what is a sustainable amount of practice for you?  What are the cornerstones you make sure are in place first?


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