Roadside Reality Check

In the midst of this busy, hot summer, I’ve been trying to faithfully log 30 minutes of speed walking/jogging (I have never found a good name for it. Is it wogging? Jalking?) almost every morning. It hasn’t been easy; I am often unmotivated by the heat and humidity. Plus I, as a woman in my mid-50s, have chronic shin splints, creaky knees, and arthritis in my hips. But I know I need to stay active to keep the cholesterol from skyrocketing, not to mention keep the mid-life muffin-top from overflowing even more, so I trick myself by saying my wogging time is my “think and pray time.”

I live on a country road that’s so country it’s just one notch above a dirt road. It doesn’t even warrant a real name– it goes by a mere letter: “D.” The advantage of jalking on Road D is that I do, indeed, get quiet think and pray time. I am more likely to be interrupted by screeching killdeer or scurrying groundhogs than by a truck or car whizzing by. I can get in a full rosary without distraction. But for a number of years, while pondering and praying over life’s issues, I have wogged along the shoulders of Road D in the same fashion: Going on the South side heading out, and on the north side heading home. The gravel crunching under my Nikes as I dodged the deer tracks, the chunks of broken-off asphalt and the occasional beer can. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, I made an impromptu change. I moved from jalking along the side of the road to wogging smack dab in the middle. It was a simple move– maybe six feet over. But what a difference it made! Suddenly, I was out of the shade of the giant oaks and into the bright sunlight. I could see my end goal (home) better. I enjoyed a smoother surface underfoot: The crunch morphed to a soft thup thup, thup thup on the pavement. The road seemingly stretched before me, like one of those horizon shots from a car commercial. It was refreshing to move from the sidelines and onto the straightaway. My spirit instantly lifted.

This little variation in my routine made me wonder: Are there other areas of my life where I am on the sidelines, making some progress but not willing to take any new risks? Am I stuck in a rut, assuming the path I’m on is best; when I haven’t noticed the more exhilarating path just a few steps away? Or worse, maybe I did notice it and I chose to ignore it. After all, the side of the road is safer and more predictable, while the middle is more risky and vulnerable. It takes a bit more courage and effort to run my race from that center position. It’s easier to keep wogging along the sidelines doing the “same old same old.”

As I pondered my new routine during my prayer journaling, I experienced a gulp-worthy realization: Yep, my spiritual life is probably too comfortable as well. I am missing opportunities, hampered by routine. I am playing it too safe. I am on the sidelines.

When I returned to the Catholic Church a short five years ago, I had all kinds of zing and zeal to learn (and re-learn) Church teachings and Traditions, but I am now admittedly in a bit of a lull. I don’t want to fall into the trap of mediocrity or be too fearful to make a change or start something new in my spiritual life. Instead, I want to be the kind of Catholic who continuously seeks growth, lives an “in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world” life, and is not afraid to take bold action in the name of building the Kingdom.

Doesn’t that sound like a worthy goal, Sistas?

What little change can we make today that will freshen our faith?

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to infuse us with courage and a renewed outlook, and to challenge us to take a few risks. “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure,” said St. John Paul the Great. He was right. But guess what? We can’t experience that adventure from the sidelines. We have to get out there, in the middle of it all, and take a step toward growth and transformation. We have to try a different path, blaze a new trail, forge an alternate route. In God’s name and with God’s help, we can do it!

(Wogging or jalking not required).

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