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Leah Perrault: Interrupting patterns for spiritual growth

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  • November 18, 2021

Interrupting is a bad habit I have been working to break for a long time, with some success and more work yet to do. And every struggle has a flip-side strength: While I need to stop speaking over people, the weakness is driven by a persistent perseverance that can also be a strength. God has been asking me lately to interrupt some of the patterns in my life that are not serving me well.

For a long time now, I have been defining spirituality as the ways we cope with reality. At the end of a rough day, I call a friend, pour a drink, eat a bag of chips or order take-out comfort food, pray or vent to my loved ones. Each of these actions is just a single neutral action; the measure of their spiritual virtue depends on the fruit that grows from them.

I define healthy spirituality as the practices that help us to make peace with and in reality. If the phone call deepens a relationship and is a source of mutual support, it is healthy. If my whining violates my own or others’ dignity, it is damaging. If the drink or the food nourishes me and draws me back into loving the messy world, it fosters peace. And if it feeds my longing to escape and avoid the world, it pulls me further away from deep and lasting peace.

Healthy Christian spirituality is the practices that make peace with and in reality, drawing us into deeper, loving relationships with ourselves, one another and God, and participate in the saving action of Jesus that transforms the world into the Kingdom of God. I pull out a glass of wine and sit with my kids on the floor over frozen pizza and puzzles. I listen to their stories and share that I had a hard time being kind today, but I’m trying again now and tomorrow. I find peace in the practice, and the ripple effect is that they are drawn into the practice of making peace. We are all one tiny repetition more practised at making peace in anticipation of tomorrow. Hopefully, we offer that peace to the next person.

We are coming up on two years into a pandemic, with exhaustion, polarization and isolation pressing hard on our collective mental health. (And my family came into this season with three years of grief survival.) We have chosen and fallen into habits and patterns to cope with the reality of pandemic living. During this fourth wave, God has been subtly (and boldly) pressing for some interrupting to happen in my world.

I am interrupting my patterns with some reflection and replacement. The practices and patterns have been paying off and working to some extent for a long time, so I need to be compassionate with myself, adding to or replacing coping practices with healthier ones (see chart).

In high school, I learned that inertia is the energy of continuing in the same direction. When we hit the brakes in the car, our bodies automatically continue in the forward direction until the force of the brakes overpowers the inertia. And, it takes less energy to change direction than come to a complete stop.

Spiritually, it is time for me to interrupt a few patterns that God has revealed as not serving me well. Luckily for me, I have a lot of practice at interrupting that needs redirecting!

(Perrault works in health care in Saskatchewan and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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