I suffer from chronic migraines. The migraines are so frequent and so debilitating that I must take daily medication to keep from getting them. When I first started taking the medication I was astonished at its effectiveness. I went from suffering from migraines at least once a week to hardly having a migraine once a month. It was my miracle drug.
In order to remember to take it each night, I have an alarm set on my phone to go off everyday at 9 PM. The great part about this alarm is that it goes off even if my phone is set to silent. The unfortunate part about this alarm is that it goes off even if my phone is set to silent. So when I sat down in the pew at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service last Wednesday, I turned the alarm off in case the service was not over before nine. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn the alarm back on. For the next few days, the alarm didn’t sound and I didn’t take my medicine. By Thursday afternoon, my body started to go through withdrawal and the headaches started to come back. Not realizing the cause, I started doubting the effectiveness of the medicine. I was becoming frustrated that the headaches were back, because in my mind, nothing had changed. I was still doing everything right, and yet, the headaches had come back.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I realized what had happened. The moment I realized my error, everything made sense. The medicine had not stopped working. I had stopped taking the medicine. The medicine only has a chance to work if I use it. When left to my own devices, even after taking this medicine for months, I will forget to take it daily. I need that alarm to remind me about the medicine.
I find myself doing a similar thing when it comes to my spiritual health. I find that I’m at my best when I’m making time to intentionally spend time, listen and talk with God. I set little alarms for myself like attending worship, attending small group or making time to pray daily. When I listen to these alarms, I find myself staying spiritually healthy. I hear inspiring music in worship that speaks to my heart and where I’m at in my journey. I wrestle with difficult questions and hear different views about faith from others in my small group. Through prayer, I’m able to confess to God my deepest concerns. However, it’s when I begin to silence these alarms and they don’t call me to attend to my spiritual health, that I find myself suffering. I don’t always notice it at first. In fact, I have even grown frustrated that God doesn’t seem as close in my life as God has at other points. I don’t immediately remember the importance of the alarms. I don’t realize that I’ve stopped attending to my spiritual health. It’s never intentional; there are a million reasons to justify my change in routine.
But without the alarm, I forget to take the medicine. And pretty soon the symptoms come back. And without the medicine I’m helpless against the symptoms.