... with the right motivation.
Life is a series of linked stories with you as the hero. Some episodes are plodding and some are filled with action and adventure. No adventure story takes place in the middle of a patch of mundane life. "Harry ate his corn flakes and read the newspaper before leaving for work that day," followed by seven chapters of similar prose isn't found in any Tom Clancy novels.
Of all the demands of Christian life, I've always found prayer and abstinence the hardest. I hate the repetitive and daily prayer is just that. If one beer is good, two must be better is my life's motto. There's more beside that, but you can see where it's going. I've vowed to change and struggled with these things, but never successfully for long, despite research and plans and many, many different approaches. My motivations have always been too inchoate to drive the plot very far.
I blogged a while back about a recovered alcoholic friend of mine who told me that you give up addictions (or, in this case, sloth and vice), when faced with a choice between the vice and something you love more. That's where the adventure story really gets going.
A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday on the phone, his wife, speaking to mine, broke down and begged us to pray for him. I didn't know it was all that serious until then. Life was going on as normal and John just needed some surgery and maybe a bit of radiation. I was back from Paso with a case of excellent micro-brews, looking forward to more sloth and self-indulgence. So much for that.
I don't see prayer and abstinence as a negotiating tool, a lever to be used with God to force Him to do something for me. Instead, it's an acknowledgement of need. He knows what kinds of creatures we are; He formed us. I don't know where prayer and sacrifice for my friend going to lead, only that it must be done. Perhaps it ends with a cure, perhaps with growing closer to Christ. It's the turn in the adventure story where the hero has to make a choice and take action to achieve some kind of a good ending out of a bad situation.
Sometimes, we sneer at people who take up religious activities only when crises hit, but isn't that the nature of an adventure story? Would we criticize Han Solo for reading a book in bed instead of prowling around the Millenium Falcon with his gun drawn when there's absolutely nothing happening? We'd think it was silly and way over-wrought. Well, this isn't over-wrought, it's serious. It's a call to action in a way my vague desires to pray and abstain weren't.
Doctors, nurses and Big Pharma will take corporeal action to help my friend. Their adventure stories will be filled with deeds. Mine will be the spiritual quest of purification for John's sake. Life has taken a turn and an adventure story has begun.