In a circle I ran in during my undergrad college years, Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits was verrrrrrry hot stuff. We had posters. We had planners and bookmarks and a lifestyle approach. We had the system, baby.

I remember listening to the book, at one point, with tears in my eyes. No, really. It all clicked and made sense. (And there was this one story that might STILL get me choked up, truth be told.)

And now I laugh. Because nope, it sure ISN’T that easy, is it?

I’ll never forget, though, my best friend at the time telling me that when he thought of the habit “Be Proactive,” he thought of me. “You’re the most proactive person I know,” he told me. A few decades later, I’m still mulling over just what that means…

So I did a bit of a double-take this week when Paprocki writes, under the heading “There’s No Such Thing as Being Spiritually Proactive,”

Stephen Covey identifies being proactive as one of the seven habits, encouraging us to be proactive in our careers and in our relationships. This type of thinking often carries over into our spiritual lives. We will take the initiative to pray more, to live a more virtuous life, and to practice spiritual disciplines. These are indeed good things, however, there is one problem with this type of thinking: it creates the illusion that WE are the ones being proactive—as if our own efforts will somehow grab God’s attention.

Wait, what? You mean I’m NOT in control?

Yeah, I pretty much need to be reminded hourly…

Paprocki continues a little later:

Instead of making it our responsibility to pursue God, we can turn our attention to God’s pursuit of us—his revelation—and seek proper ways to respond. Like working on an assembly line, we don’t start from scratch. God started it.

And then this:

The deepening of one’s spiritual life is not so much the arduous climbing toward the peak of a very high mountain, but rather the hoisting of a sail to catch the wind that will draw us to another destination. In the spiritual life, the best we can do is conspire with God. It’s time we stopped thinking we can paddle ourselves across the great sea of life and, instead, determine which way the spirit is blowing and hoist our sails, allowing ourselves to be guided to distant shores.

spiritually proactive think NOT

It’s an image that’s going to stay with me, that image of catching the wind in my sail. I do have a tendency to take the bull by the horns (and of mixing my metaphors, but you’ll forgive me for that and for all the parenthetical comments, right?). I do have a tendency to problem-solve my way through, well, everything.

God made me this way. But he also made me to sit and sail. He made me be aware and responsive to his initiative.

What difference does it make? Paprocki words it well: “It means that we are called to respond to God’s revealing of himself to us, aware that we are not trying to get God’s attention but are responding to God’s efforts to get our attention.”

More on this over at the Lawn Chair Catechism post for this week covering Chapter 2 of Joe Paprocki’s A Well-Built Faith.

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