I haven’t been married long. But one habit Celeste and I have created is that we almost always kiss before we get out of the car. Even if we just had a heated discussion, kissing reminds us that we are committed to each other, that we love each other, and that despite wherever we are at emotionally at this moment, we are faithful and full of faith towards the other. It is a habit of commitment which in turn draws us towards each other.
Kissing, like liturgy or devotions (reading a passage and meditating on it each day) is not always a response to a feeling. I don’t only kiss my wife when I am madly in love with her and have strong feelings. I kiss her because I love her, of course, but sometimes the kiss reminds me of what our relationship is– sometimes the kiss reinstantiates the commitment, directs me towards what really matters, and keeps me focused. A kiss is not merely an expression of some feeling– it can at times revive those types of feelings. A kiss is a habit of concern which awakens in us a habituated direction or directiveness towards (in this case) my loved one– Celeste. (Who but philosophers could talk this way 🙂
In the same way then, liturgy (or devotions) are habits which direct us towards what matters. They are not merely expressions of feelings, but they at times help direct our passions towards what can awaken our feelings of love, devotion, and concern. At times I go into liturgy not entirely ‘feeling’ close to God, but, in the practice, I am drawn back to God and to my first love. The distractions fade away and again I remember what really matters. As I say the Apostle’s Creed with other believers, it becomes more real to me, as I sing a song with others, it awakens and reminds me of what I believe, and as I take the bread and wine with others, that solidarity reinforces my belief and commitments.
The next time you don’t ‘feel like’ pursuing God, or spiritual practices– remember that that act of pursuit is often the initiation which can ignite the true passion. To act when you don’t ‘feel like it’ is not inauthentic rote– it can be soul habit which primes the pump of real spiritual engagement.
May God have mercy on us all.