When you want to engage in daily devotional activity and everything is going well, it can be deceptively easy to do. Doing so when you are not well, overly stressed out, or stuck with such a busy schedule that you need to literally schedule when you take care of your daily activities of living (i.e.: sleeping, eating, showering, etc.), can be very difficult. Throw in something of a struggle because you want to do the very best (or at least do it as well as you do when everything is going smoothly) and you have a recipe for heartbreak.
It is important to remember that the Divine does not need our devotional activities. The Divine is vast, wonderful, and mysterious. The Divine is far larger than we can comprehend and our devotional acts, while pleasing and a source of comfort for us, are not what makes the Divine able to effect the world. It is something entirely separate from us and can continue (and will continue) to influence the world long after we have shuffled off this mortal coil. One would ask with a sense of nihilist morbidity, “What is the point to devotion then?”
The answer is simple. Devotion is an act of reaching out to the Divine and maintaining a relationship with them. The Divine is always there, reaching out to us. We simply need to return the gesture, which is what devotional activity is for. There is this idea that a person with a rich devotional life is constantly engaged in mystic prayer and somehow above the things that make our lives ‘mundane’ and what makes us human. This idea is false. It is possible to have a rich devotional life even when you feel too awful to engage in those comforting rituals.
Some days, when I am feeling truly horrid, I simply can’t muster up the energy to do much more than the bare minimum required to be a parent and keep my home tidy (and there are days where I struggle with even that). Enter into the situation the feeling that I should be keeping my daily prayers going and doing all the little things I do to honor the gods, and I come away feeling pretty miserable.
But, there is one thing I can and always do. That is to simply tell the gods that I am struggling and that I care. Sometimes, just that simple admission of why I am having a hard time can help relieve the pressure I feel to do something for them. Other days, I still feel anxious and upset. Those days, I will sometimes spend time just communing with the gods by way of telling them my troubles and fears. Because they don’t want you just when everything is going well. They want you as you are, troubles, fears, and insecurities and all.
So, you may not have it in you to light the candle and put out that offering. Looking at your shrine may make you feel even more exhausted because it is a bit dusty and in need of a bit of tender care. This does not mean you are failing. It just means that you are struggling. And when you say to the Divine ‘Hey, I’m trying. I’m just really struggling here.’ that can be more precious than a thousand fancy baubles offered up in some prestigious ritual done in absolute accuracy with ancient directions. Because you are opening your heart to them and showing your vulnerable side. And that is hard to do. Especially with the Divine because you can never say for certain just how that is going to work out.
But that sort of emotional rawness is precious. Don’t give up when you’re not feeling well. Just lower that bar you need to hurdle and give what you can.
Originally Published: 5/28/17