The spiritual life is a multi-faceted ideal. It is an ideal which, I suggest, is unsustainable with any consistency because of the many compromises life invariably presents to us. Some people work hard at putting themselves in positions with which they stand a better chance of dealing with life’s compromises and, thus, experiencing longer stretches of the spiritual life. Most of those who are able to do this we consider saints. But even in their ranks compromises are inevitable.
My own life is rife with compromises for which I rely on Your loving mercy, forgiveness, and grace. The one great compromise in my spiritual life is my strong leaning on myself as the source of my own spirituality. This seriously compromises Your role.
Often we are not sure that the things we consider compromises are actually that. When I chose to become a priest and studied three years for it, was my spiritual life compromised by my thinking that my life might be more “influential” as a lay person? In that case, then, was studying to be a priest a compromise?
My journey has led me to epitomize the monastic and eremitic life, but this track of the spiritual life is compromised not only by my state in life but my conviction that I can make the world my monastery. So very often it seems as if the right path is to not fight the compromises; to accept them and roll with them, and put them in Your hands with the conviction that Your grace plus my willingness will pull me through.
There are events, situations, or confrontations that will always put us in compromising circumstances – circumstances in which what we value is threatened. We may be forced to choose what we would not choose. Our tendency is to view these as setbacks, or maybe even as faults or weaknesses. Yet, recognizing their inevitability means we know we will have to deal with them.
I write this to You now looking for consolation, support, and a “game plan” in dealing with those times when compromise makes me feel less than loyal to You. Thomas Merton’s journal entry for April 8, 1967, at least consoles me with the reality that I am not alone in these feelings. We are both beneficiaries and victims of our compromises.