It has been said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Jana Riess’ new book Flunking Sainthood is an encouraging word to those of us who have approached traditional spiritual disciplines with good intentions, only to end up frustrated by failure.
All the ordinary places and events of our lives hold the potential to become houses of God, gateways of heaven. Every moment holds the possibility of revealing the hidden God in our midst. The reason knowing God does not consist of an endless stream of ecstatic and extraordinary experiences is because God wants us to learn to see him in the ordinary!
No matter what, pruning is inevitable in order that a vine may bear good fruit. Branches that bear no fruit must be removed and cut off. Likewise, branches that bear fruit must be pruned in order that they will bear more and better fruit. The spiritual lesson is clear: Everyone is under God’s knife. And that’s precisely what pop spirituality doesn’t want.
If Jesus needed times of solitude, how much more is this true for us. But solitude feels more like a punishment than a reward. We are part of a culture addicted to amusement, noise, and music. The constant chatter and endless buzz keeps us focused on trivial distractions and prevents us from truly wrestling with ourselves, God, meaning, and real life.