Learning to Be Scrappy in the Spiritual Life

(photo: Register Files)

My father was the first son of a single mom who had next to nothing. He never graduated from college, but with hard work and tough lessons, he was able to retire well by the age of 45.

I learned a lot from him growing up. One principle that he worked hard to teach me was to be “scrappy.” He taught me to be scrappy in life and this scrappiness has also translated well to developing a healthy prayer life.

I am by no means perfect in the virtues associated with being scrappy, but I have found that to the degree that I rely upon God and pursue the principles my father taught me, I have been able to make progress.

What does a scrappy person look like? Here are a few characteristics translated into spiritual terms:

Scrappy people are positive. Every obstacle they encounter is simply an indication that they need to find a way around that obstacle. Often obstacles indicate opposition that may reveal that they are on the right track. When they know they are opposed by the enemy of their souls, they are encouraged.

Scrappy people are resourceful. No matter what the obstacle, they never stand helpless but immediately begin to look for solutions. By the grace of God, they almost never fail to find a way forward even if they seem to be incomplete or imperfect.

Scrappy people are trusting. They know that God is in control and that every obstacle is one that is provided for their sanctification. Knowing this, they have some peace that God will help them overcome and that they will learn from their failures.

Scrappy people have a long view. They know that sometimes answers don’t come in the short-term but that the most important things in life are often only attained after long toil in the right direction.

Scrappy people are resilient. They never give up when it comes to the most important things in life.

Scrappy people are consistent. They get up every day and engage in prayer no mater how they feel or whatever the circumstance. They recognize that God can’t help someone who refuses to engage every day.

Scrappy people are humble. They are quick to seek help when they can’t seem to find a way on their own. They know they don’t know or see everything and thus regularly seek the counsel of others.

The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Carlo Dolci, circa 1630
The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Carlo Dolci, circa 1630
The bottom line: Scrappy people know from whence comes their strength and salvation: they know that they are weak and incapable of making progress on their own and that the source of strength and real solutions can only come from God. They also know that God always delivers on His promises.

Yes, prayer is a battle. Battlefields are no place for the under-committed. For those who are willing, the battle will be won because God is faithful and they are engaged.

All that said, sometimes we just don’t have the raw material from which to rely on either to get started or to get un-stuck. Being scrappy implies that we have a reasonable understanding of the domain we operate in. We know the right people, we understand the resources available to us, etc.

In the realm of prayer and the interior life, most Catholics have never been given even the most basic formation regarding how to successfully navigate their interior life and grow in their relationship with God. If you are ready to get scrappy in your prayer life, we are excited to announce a three part webinar series on prayer designed to help you prepare for Advent and advance in the battle of prayer.

In each webinar, we will spend approximately an hour digging into the wisdom of the saints and revealing the secrets of those who have fought and won the battle of prayer and found the longing of their soul in intimacy with God. The days and times of the series are as follows (if you cannot attend the live session we will send registrants the videos):

Wisdom from the Monastic Tradition – Lectio Divina (Reading with God) and Prayer Foundations – Secrets to Success in Daily Prayer.
     Date/Time: Thursday, November 19th at 8 PM Eastern / 7 PM Central

Wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila about Progress in Prayer from Challenging Beginnings to the Heights of Contemplation.
     Date/Time: Thursday, December 3rd at 8 PM Eastern / 7 PM Central

Developing a Disposition of Prayer to Guard and Nurture your Prayer Progress. Spiritual Warfare Related to Maintaining Prayer Discipline.
    Date/Time: Thursday, December 10th at 8 PM Eastern / 7 PM Central

For more information and to sign up, visit SpiritualDirection.com/webinars.

I hope you can join us for these webinars. Either way, be scrappy, my friends, and you will know a joy and peace that you never thought possible.  

Art: The Holy Family with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, Carlo Dolci, circa 1630