I have often had that discussion in my head and with my wife (especially when we were first married and she was not a “fold the underwear” girl) and the truth is that the main reason I do it is because that’s the way I always did it. My mom grew up as the daughter of a WWII soldier who brought the practice home and it’s the way she always did it, so it became the way I always did it, too. But why?
It was just last week that I finally got my answer.
My house was overflowing with laundry that had been washed, dried and piled onto our bed, but never folded (don’t judge me!). It had been about a week’s (or maybe two week’s) worth of laundry and all of it was sitting on our bed. Of course, I did this on purpose in order to force my wife and me to fold the laundry before we crawled into bed. It didn’t work. My wife was exhausted and she simply shoved the laundry to my side of the bed and fell asleep. So, it was 10:00, I was tired, my wife was peacefully sleeping under the pile of laundry and the empty baskets were beckoning to be filled to overflowing once again. What was I to do?
Well, I’m training for a marathon. I used to run in high school on my cross country and track teams (that was only 10 years ago) but anybody who knows me would say that I’m in way over my head. You see, often times I lack the capacity to slow down and think through my decisions, let alone allow God to lead me. So, deciding to run a marathon, to many of my friends and family members, is another one of those hasty decisions that I say I’m going to do but end up backing out. To be honest, that’s what I was afraid of, too. But then something amazing happened.
I prayed on my first day of running three months ago. For the first time in a long time, I made a clear connection with God and knew what I needed more than anything and I asked for it: discipline. I had no idea at the time how far that request would take me.
Then, on the day of the laundry pile, it was time for my weekly “long run”. This was the first time I would be hitting double digits and at the 8th mile I was to be hitting one of the hardest hills in my small running area. I knew this before I left my house and I was preparing mentally for it throughout the first 7 miles. Then about half way through that 7th mile, I started telling myself, “I just don’t think I’ll be able to do it.” By the time I hit that 8th mile, and was ready to turn the corner to face that hill, I had it set in my mind that I would just go as far as I could and walk the rest of the way. But then I remembered that prayer from a couple months ago and the whole thing changed.
“Lift me, Lord! Lift me up this hill.”
I turned the corner and there in front of me was a hill that I remembered being much steeper and longer than I saw. I sailed up that hill and at the top I couldn’t help but shout out loud at the amazing event that just happened. No, there were no physical changes to the landscape, but in my mind and in my heart something miraculous happened that day and I learned something very valuable that I would carry with me through that night. I learned discipline.
I began folding that laundry. For 90 minutes I folded laundry and then I came to the socks and underwear. Something in me really wanted to just throw them into one of the laundry baskets (they would only fill one basket after all!) and deal with them in the morning, but I realized in that moment that this was my last hill. If I was serious about discipline, this was my opportunity to seize it.
I realized in those moments, that discipline is about our choosing to do something despite any other forces telling us otherwise. And I realized that starting a prayer life is the same way. When we come to a hard task, when we can’t even fathom praying because we are just too tired, too hurt, too troubled, too bored; we pray! Not because that is the way we always did it but because that is our opportunity to show God that He is first in our lives, that we rely on Him to get us through these things and that we choose to love Him. If at first, we must go to him out of sheer determined choice, then it is good, because in that choice we learn what Love is. Then, eventually, that determined choice becomes a passionate desire to be with Him always and you recognize that He has already chosen to be with you!
The spiritual life is easy at times, you seek God, God seeks you and there are great rewards in it. Other times you just have to choose to face that last hill or fold the underwear.