What is a “spiritual life”? I didn’t have a good answer to that until recently. My road to a deeper spirituality was a long, arduous, and somewhat surprising one. It didn’t come through religion, church, Scripture, meditation, prayer, or any type of spiritual practice. Not that those things can’t get one there, I’m sure they can. It began with an examination of the self, one which revealed to me a small-false-ego-self that had to be stripped of all the detritus surrounding it so that it could be confronted in full light.
Ever since I became a parent, I have been particularly invested in living a moral life. This is not to say morality was unimportant to me before, of course. But now I have a little human around who observes everything I do and say, and I genuinely want to guide him toward making decisions that are right for him and those around him. Therefore, the choices I make each day, for myself and for him, have decidedly profound implications.
Developing self-control obviously does not come without struggle, as can be heard in Paul the Apostle’s famous lament: “That which I do not want to do, that I do.” Jesus delivers a similar warning when he tells us to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The Desert Fathers put extremely strong emphasis on developing self-control as a means for attaining “purity of heart.”
Doesn’t this ring true? We must do the work of aligning who we really are inside with how we actually act every day. And self-reflection enables us to bridge this gap. When we take stock of whatever’s going on beneath the surface of our thoughts, words, and actions, we’re better able to understand the gap between the way we are living today and the way we know we should be living.