During the Christmas season, it is popular for news channels to publish inspirational stories about couples who rescued animals, donated to the needy or the rare few who managed to save their failing marriages. It just so happens that I came upon an article about the latter.
A couple who married one another with unrealistic expectations of love found themselves on the brink of divorce many years later. In a last-ditch effort to save their marriage, the husband one day asked his wife, “What can I do to make your day better?” She told him he could clean the kitchen, so he did. He asked that same question the next day, and was told to clean the garage. After two weeks of asking his wife that question every day, she finally apologized and told him that she should be asking him that question. Now, they ask each other that simple question every morning, just to make each other’s day a little bit better.
Reading this article led me to wonder if I could truly commit to asking somebody in my life “what can I do to make your day better” and if I could, who would it be? The obvious answer could be my parents since I owe everything to them, but as a typical teenager who has to hold back a sigh most of the time when they ask me to do something for them, would I really be able to ask them that question every day? I knew I needed to look deeper than blood and ask myself which of my relationships needed to be saved. Which one always needed to be strengthened because they wanted to be there for me in times of need? Then it occurred to me: my relationship with God.
Realizing that made me question if anybody has ever asked God that question. Maybe not “what can I do to make your day better,” but “what can I do to better myself for you?” At first thought it seems like a simple question, easy enough to slip into your everyday prayer routine, but you soon realize how daunting of a task it is. Asking God for ways to better yourself for him every single day? It’s more than a little frightening to think about the sheer amount of commitment and trust it requires. Who even has enough courage to truly ask him that and actually carry it through? I know I certainly don’t. But maybe I could fix that, maybe I could change myself for him with help.
So I turned to the three people in my life who have the deepest relationships with God that I know of, to ask them how they deepen their relationships, in hopes that their methods would spark something inside of me.
My mother told me of how in some of her lowest points in life, stuck in a dead-end job, surrounded by despair and seemingly unanswered prayers, she reached out to friends for prayers that they used when they were at rock bottom. She prayed all of those prayers, until she found one that clicked with her. She would pray it on her way to work, and a line or two throughout the day when she needed comfort. On her way home, she would think of 10 small things she was grateful for that day, just so she could see that things were slowly improving.
My Great-Aunt Nancy, a former nun, wakes up early every morning so she can read a passage of Scripture. Then, she reflects on what she read in a journal where she writes her own prayers to pray.
Finally, my grandmother arrives an hour early for 4 p.m. Mass every Saturday so she can sit in the peaceful quiet of the Lord and pray the rosary before other parishioners arrive.
Listening to how they strengthen their relationships with God made me realize that their methods don’t have what I specifically need to connect with him.
Being outside in the quiet of an early morning has always held a certain allure for me. This seems to be the way I can truly connect with him without becoming distracted, as I do during the Mass when worry about what others might be thinking of me or how they are getting so much prayer done while I’m frantically trying to appear as though I am too.
For those of you who struggle to connect with God whether it be because you worry too much about not praying the “right way,” because you can’t find a form of worship that works best for you or even if you feel like your prayers are going unheard despite your best efforts, ask those who are unwavering in their faith what they do to improve themselves when they are at their weakest. More importantly than that, try new types of prayer if your normal routine is no longer working for you.
If you feel like praying to God while exercising or driving, first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night, then do it. This is your relationship with God, so keep it alive. And maybe once you’re in a better position spiritually, you can start asking him the question how you can better yourself to serve his holy purposes.
So will you commit to asking him that question every day? I know I will.
Katherine McWilliams is a junior at St. Joseph School in Conway. She attends St. Joseph Church.
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