No man can serve two masters. Yet I would ostensibly spend great amounts of energy in directing my attentions to seeking You while, at the same time, spending great amounts of energy maintaining attachments, projects, and entertaining all kinds of distractions. The conflict inherent in this is of my own creation.
There has always seemed to be something hypocritical about the notion of having your cake and eating it too. While this “predicament” offers tension in the pursuit of a spiritual life, I’m not absolutely positive that the “notion” of its being a conflict is unequivocally true – and this is the real problem: to know whether pursuing such a line is purely rationalization or not. Are one’s naturally human proclivities for worldly attachments, projects and distractions purely the tools of the devil or can something good be found in them?
The possibility for more rationalization makes me shy away from such a notion (for I am, I know, a great “rationalizer”) but it’s pretty clear that this world and our humanity are things quite far apart from the undistracted bliss of heaven. What we are, then, and when we live are inevitable parts of Your “plan” for us. Granted things may not, in their present form, perfectly reflect Your “original plan” but rather what we have negotiated as acceptable and You, in Your great love for us, have allowed. So, this is it! We function purposefully to find You in a milieu of projects, attachments and distractions.It is not so much that we seek them in order to seek You – it is more that we come to grips with the reality that rather than suffering the mental and spiritual punishment of trying to purge ourselves entirely of them, we learn to place You in them and find You there. I think the operative word for these stumbling blocks is “inevitable.”We do not necessarily desire them, they just occur.
Thomas Merton talks about spiritualizing our desires by desiring not to desire. I think this means the desire for projects, attachments and distractions is one thing (an obstacle), but to allow them (not to desire them) is replete with the possibilities of finding You in them, or directing them to You, or inviting You to join in them, or redirecting them as prayer, or seeing in them other possibilities for spiritual growth. Sometimes concentrated involvement with them in leisure can result in the kind of self-transcendence theologian Fr. Donald Cozzens talks about as so necessary for contemplative prayer.
We are, somehow, nearer to You when we lose ourselves. Thus, the ways we tend to lose ourselves (to transcend our self) in projects, attachments and distraction which might otherwise be hazards to our spiritual growth may, in one sense, be a paradigm for the transcendence sought and needed for contemplative prayer. So, the trick is not in learning how to serve two masters but in learning how that which might become our masters might serve us.