Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Five: Scanning For Malware
We are continuing our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle practices that are outlined by Fr. Richard Rohr in his book Just This. Today we're talking about what he calls Scanning for Malware.
I got some malware (evil software, essentially--a virus, if you will) on my computer not too long ago that drove me absolutely crazy. Every single time I would do a search on Google, the malware would switch me over to Bing, which is Microsoft's search engine.
Between you and me, I think Microsoft commissioned that malware. Dirty buggers.
I had to purchase some anti-virus software for my computer, and the first thing I had to do was to run a scan of the whole thing. Eventually I was able to get rid of the malware causing my search issues, but I also discovered that there were a few other viruses on my computer, and I got those cleaned up, too.
In an hour or two, my computer was running better, more efficiently and I wasn't having to deal with Microsoft and their evil software any longer.
Fr. Richard lifts up this spiritual lifestyle practice as one that is vital if we are going to have a vibrant prayer life, and be able to live more abundantly.
Fr. Richard asserts that it's vital to do a "conscious scan" of our mind and heart at the beginning of our prayer time to uncover the hidden malware (negative thoughts, struggles, fears, etc.) that might prohibit us from getting the most out of our time with God.
You might be wondering how to identify the malware in your life, how to see it clearly and to take steps to rid yourself of it.
Sometimes, just like the evil software from Microsoft, it disguises itself as something good.
This is important... Good things done with negative energy are not life-giving for you or anyone around you.
I have seen this so often in the church-y world I have spent so many years working in and around. People will become so obsessed with "doing good" that they lose sight of why they started doing good in the first place.
Some of the angriest, most judgmental people I have ever met in church were the ones who were leading soup kitchens, food pantries, clothes closets or other assorted ministries designed to help the needy.
They may have started off with good intentions, but somewhere along the way they got infected by malware, and then became territorial, intractable, combative and joyless.
But almost always we have an inkling as to what the malware within us looks like. Henri Nouwen once wrote:
The enemy is an internal presence, so we are dealing with something very intimate to us.It's important for us to be honest with ourselves about ourselves, and to be willing to act courageously as we name the malware within us, and refuse to let it take over.
Additionally, Fr. Richard advocates for patience as we allow for the time that's needed to make the necessary shifts from negativity to positivity. He writes:
Stay at prayer for as long as it takes for you to move from negative energy to positive energy, from death to love; otherwise you have not prayed at all.This is hard for me because I tend to run out of patience. I remember sitting at my computer while the virus scan was running, just wanting it to be done so I could go back to work.
The problem was, I wouldn't be able to work as efficiently or well unless the computer was cleansed of all the malware. Only then would I be operating and working at my greatest level of potential.
Similarly, we need to be patient with ourselves in those moments of prayer as we begin to identify the things that are keeping us from being our truest selves, living into our best life.
As we begin to shift away from the negative energy of our malware, we will begin to see things differently, our heart will be more open, we will be more able and willing to receive the gift of God's presence in our lives.
May you discover anew what it means to root out the malware in your own life, and begin living more fully. May your prayer life and connection with God become unfettered and open.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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