An older gentleman in our community is a resident at a nearby palliative hospital. He has always been a strong independent man, but his Parkinson’s disease has entered an aggressive form and he is unable to do the simple functions of life as he once did independent of help.
One such task is daily shaving, for which he requires the help of the nurses. One day by accident one of the nurses nicked him a little and she was instantly forbidden from ever helping him again. Instead, my elderly friend does it himself and in the process nicks himself over and over again on his own.
In our lives the same pattern can exist when we allow things into our life which prevent or prohibit us in our life of prayer. We call that baggage. This baggage of life comes often in forms of hurdles, hurts and heresies. Let us take a look at all three briefly as we continue looking at what is prayer together.
First, the hurdles. I often recall hearing as a child my pastor remark “Heaven is Heaven and Earth is not.” Our eternal focus and destiny is not here, it is with the Lord. So this life will be filled with hurdles. How we handle those hurdles makes all the difference.
In this we know that people (even priests) are imperfect, that the events of life don’t always run smoothly, that mistakes and even “bad things” do happen, that families disagree and even drift — all of this can be heavy baggage. Yet if in our prayer we hold on to that baggage, with mandates that tell God what He must do with this baggage and then despair when the mandate is not fulfilled, then we are losing the opportunity to grab hold of mercy.
Mercy lets us forgive often, try again regularly, get up when we fall, seek help, find balance and adopt peace. Are you praying with a mandate or with mercy?
Another piece of baggage in our life is hurts. These “nicks” of life can be done by ourselves in our choices, or by others in word, action or deed. Many of the times these are in error, and we can either keep “nicking” by reliving the hurt or we can seek instead the light of the Lord, which often means letting go and moving on.
Even in our prayer we can recount the story, telling God the hurt that was done and even asking repeatedly why? Holding on to this baggage just causes the hurt to be relived, but surrendering it in prayer to the Lord, expressing our emotion but sufficing in His Grace, makes all the difference. Is there anything you are holding on to and letting “nick” you more?
Thirdly, we often handle the baggage of “heresies.” These are the half-truths or the lies of life. They often are appealing, look good, seem easy and even manageable, but that small inner voice says they are wrong.
Last fall, after returning from a gruelling 16-hour flight, I was in a hurry to catch my ride at the airport and get home. After standing at the luggage area for a bit I spotted my luggage, grabbed it and began to make my way out of the airport only to be chased by an airline employee claiming I had someone else’s bag. Upon inspection, well, I did. They looked alike with one difference, the name tag.
So often the heresies of life look like truth, but they are not of the Lord. The best way to drop this baggage is in prayer, to constantly be praying for a discerning heart to seek the light of the Lord by seeing if it is for His name, His glory and as part of His will for our life. If it’s not of the Lord — drop it!
Ask yourself this week: in your life of prayer, is there any baggage you continue to carry? Are you holding on to it in prayer, or are you dropping it with prayer? Next week, the greatest prayer.
(Fr. Freitas is the pastor at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Cambridge, Ont., and the author of More Than Survive, available from Catholic Register Books.)