How badly do you want to win? During my part-time job at the on-campus dining hall, I used to spend my spare minutes (when I wasn’t serving food) having discussions with the other servers and cooks. One day a woman who served food during every weekday lunch (the “mother” of all the college students), started telling me about how she had won multiple exotic vacation packages from various sweepstakes over the years. Many people would ask her what the secret to winning was, and how she got so lucky. Truth be told, it wasn’t that she had a uncanny knack for winning, but it was her dedication, focus, and perseverance.
“Lisa” would get up at 4 a.m. every morning and enter sweepstakes online for two hours. She had everything down to a science: from the time window she would start and stop, to the specific websites she needed to visit. It was a huge time investment, but it was her hobby, and she just plain enjoyed it. And sometimes, a very small percentage of the sweepstakes she entered struck gold. Lisa wasn’t “better” at sweepstakes than everyone else; her “better” was simply her dedicated effort. As I think back and reminisce, it strikes me how similar is our spiritual life! It’s easy to point a finger at religious and say that they’re spiritually advanced because they’re in a religious order or the priesthood. As if that makes them an enigma to us, living on a spiritual plane we could never hope to ascend to. What a misplaced thought. If living a devout and holy life can be thought of as a series of spiritual “wins”, or strings of victories over the small daily battles with sin and temptation, just as with repeatedly winning sweepstakes, it doesn’t come with luck or being “special”. It springs from something much more measurable and down to earth: dedication--setting aside time each day to focus on that activity to bring us closer to our goal. If we want to advance spiritually and become something more than who we are today, it means taking few minutes each day to spend in prayer. Start small with just 5 or 10 minutes, the same time each day, and pray. Running has also taught me to focus on the small steps. My coach used to ask me how badly I wanted to win. If you desire it so strongly it washes out everything else, then you're ready. But that desire increases with dedication. I can’t hop outside and decide to run a marathon (or even race my best 5k) without first sitting down and dedicating myself to running each week. When race day comes, it’s easy to tell whether I’ve trained enough. Winning isn’t luck, it’s perseverance.