Filling Up Halfway

A couple days ago I stopped at a gas station to refill my tank when I saw the yellow light on my dashboard turn on. I pulled up to the pump and waited for the screen to hit $15 before removing the nozzle. The tank usually fills up with about $30, but I’ve been planning on paying off the balance on my credit card so I can pay for gas with it and get those precious cash back rewards. This has actually already happened twice, in a row. So, with better planning I could have filled up the first time and gotten my rewards.

Oh, well. That’s really not that important.

This may be a silly illustration (it definitely is), but it captures quite well how my mood has been. How my spiritual life has stagnated. How my soul consistently runs on half a tank. And it’s been a while. Too long, really.

Last night, as soon as I got home and put my backpack on the floor, I sat down on the couch and turned on the Xbox to play some FIFA. I was tired, but more than that, I felt empty. When my roommate walked in and said, “You look dead,” I couldn’t help but half-smile and assent. That had been my mood for most of the week. Just going through the motions, trying to find something but not knowing exactly what. My tank running on fumes for a couple days, I needed to find something, but really, I didn’t even want to try at that point.

Every week the story repeats to some extent. I get to Friday night intellectually and emotionally exhausted. Part of me looking forward to reading spiritual/religious books, doing some personal writing, playing clarinet, somehow getting closer to God; the other part staying in bed stressing out about how to best recharge during the remaining Sabbath hours and being so paralyzed that usually not much recharging happens.

To be fair, I do fill up some of my tank. Setting aside and forgetting about any and all schoolwork for the Sabbath is tremendously liberating. It’s the time I can best disconnect from the need of doing—although I can easily end up substituting for other kinds of doing. When the sun sets on Saturday and Sabbath is over, I find myself ready for the week only to find out a couple days later my tank was only half full.

See, Sabbath is a huge blessing, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to recharge. Am I even supposed to figure it out? How much effort should I put in before it all becomes about how well I can perform and then it’s no different from how everything else around me works?

I feel lost in my spiritual practice—if I can even say I have such a thing right now. I often leave church feeling emptier, more upset and frustrated. And I’m just not sure what I need.

This helps. Writing about it. Sharing what’s going on, even if it all comes out as mumble jumble. I will keep looking, trying, searching, and staying still. It’s not about religionand it’s not about correct Sabbath-keeping, although rituals (spiritual practices) can certainly help. I want to better understand how to be present and aware of my place in and connection with a deeper reality.

Sabbath ended not long ago. I hope next time I stop at the gas station, I can fill up the tank all the way.

Discipline and commitment

As a musician, discipline is extremely important. You gotta schedule your practice time and stick to it. It doesn’t always work out as planned because you might have to schedule an important meeting like reviewing your literature review with your thesis advisor (coming up soon!). Or maybe you are just having a terrible day and don’t want to practice. Practicing is nothing like a performance; all the glamour just isn’t there.

Practicing is a demanding activity for your brain, if you do it the right way. Moreover, it can be boring and stressful. But you gotta do it.

Before coming to college, I was not disciplined with my practice, or with anything. All of a sudden, I had to develop this thing everyone admires but no one likes.

However, I think it is safe to say I am close to being a disciplined clarinetist.

Just as I have developed discipline to practice, I must do it in some other areas, and there is one that has been patiently waiting for me. Given all the pressure I feel at the moment, much of it self-inflicted, I need to spend time with God. Seriously.

Commitment has been on my mind since school began in August. I have many important decisions this year, both personal and professional. I really need some help, guidance and support. Maybe I would have all those things if I could be disciplined in my relationship with God.

And I’ve tried.

I’ve tried to make time for God at any time of the day. I’ve done it for about a week at  time, but then I start to think, Well, maybe I couldn’t do it today but tomorrow I will.

Perhaps I need to start by treating my devotional life as I do my clarinet practice: with seriousness.

If I have committed and developed discipline in my clarinet practice, this blog and the podcast, God can help me do it with my devotional life.

Perhaps I’ve been too relaxed about what my relationship with God should look like that I fail to see how much I’ve neglected it. Maybe that is why I am so afraid of the future. It might be the reason why I struggle with a deep-rooted desire for transcendence.

Can I really develop a healthy devotional life? God, will you help me? Will you help me get rid of these fears and commit to you?

Shabbat shalom.