March 16, 2009

Making a Good Beginning Each Day

In his book, Path to Rome, Hilaire Belloc starts out by criticizing a French proverb that basically asserts that the most important thing about doing anything is getting started. Belloc believes this to be basically false. From his perspective, getting started is easy. Persevering is hard. And this is how he begins his book on his 750 mile walk from France to Rome over the Alps and the Appenines.

Belloc's sobering insight goes with something that Antony of the Desert explained in his own teaching on how to live the Christian life. He said that each day we must take up the discipline of the Christian life as if for the first time. Every day is like a new beginning, as if we were beginning to pray for the first time. If we have this attitude, we do not get so discouraged when we fail - for we often will. The Christian life is not one of instant success but rather constant effort, the effort to begin to love because of the love that has been given us. This very effort glorifies the Lord even when it seems like we have utterly failed. The Apostle Paul indicated something like this when he explained that the power of God is made perfect in our weakness.

How do we make this new beginning a persevere in it? The secret of course is prayer. Prayer was at the center of Antony's view of the the discipline of the Christian life. It is also the unspoken heart of Belloc's pilgrimage. When we take time to turn our hearts to God in the midst of triumph and tragedy - we find a strength to hang in there, even when we do not feel we can.