Now that I am in my final year of college and about to take on the world as a full adult rather than a college student, I have learned a lot of difficult lessons regarding my faith and spirituality. I am so fortunate to attend a Jesuit university that tries to incorporate faith and God into my nursing education. Thankfully, I can practice my faith every day during my studies.
However, it took me a long time to finally understand that life is truly chaotic. Our schedules are not up to our discretion like when we were younger; distraction follows us wherever we go and what was once easy is now more difficult.
Naturally, we begin to accept that we don’t have the time to be as active in some of the activities we used to be. Our priorities are slowly whittled down to allow time for a few of the important aspects of our lives. And unfortunately, faith is usually one of the first things on the chopping block.
We still believe in our faith and practice it as best we can, but many of us never truly strive to do more due to our time and attention constraints. We become stagnant.
Stagnation is not necessarily a bad thing. Every person will be stagnant in their faith at one point or another. That is simply human nature. We have times in our lives when we must dedicate attention to some things over others. However, stagnation is bad when it turns to complacency.
Stagnation is when we are overwhelmed with our responsibilities and daily life, so our faith takes a hit but is not forgotten. Complacency is when we make excuses, and our faith suffers because we are no longer actively trying to gain our faith back.
There was a point when I was becoming stagnant, no longer putting my faith as a priority. This was originally because I was dedicating three full days to working in the hospital, one full day to classes and the rest to studying for the never-ending rotation of exams. I was exhausted, burnt out and needed a break.
However, I was also uncomfortable in this area because I wanted to go to Mass, pray and reflect, but I didn’t feel like I had the time. I needed to be reminded that my faith is not an extracurricular activity. It is a gift.
There are always going to be moments when we feel stagnant in our faith. This is something that I have had to come to terms with. When I was younger, I was always afraid that I would become stagnant. I was worried the stress of college, socializing and finding a path for myself would overwhelm me, as it happens to many students.
I fought so hard to avoid this that my spiritual life became a scoresheet. I felt that I’d somehow fail if I didn’t designate my “required time” to practice my faith. I’ve lost my faith in some small way. If I was able to go to Mass, I got a point. If I didn’t pray enough, I would lose a point and so forth. I soon realized that keeping this theoretical scoresheet was limiting my ability to truly be faithful.
When I felt particularly strained spiritually, I spoke to one of the nurses I work with on the COVID-19 unit. Obviously, through the pandemic, working on this unit has been incredibly draining for nurses and students alike. We all see an enormous amount of loss and difficulty. This nurse, also a devoted Catholic, told me that as difficult as it might be on our hearts to see so much hurt, the worst thing we can do is ignore that pain. She explained that we often feel this stagnation when we need our faith most, and it would be tragic to turn away from God when we need him so much.
I used to be afraid of this spiritual standstill. But now I know that understanding our faith can have times when we are not as passionate as others are important.
To be true-hearted in our religion, we must have moments when faith is not so easy. That’s the most important part of faith — believing without seeing, knowing we come back to God even when it is difficult.
Ardyn Townzen is a senior at Creighton University in Omaha. St. Stephen Church in Bentonville is her home parish.
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