“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.”Step 1, The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

“R” is for “Recognize.” It’s so basic it may sound obvious — but the obvious isn’t always easy to acknowledge when so many of us live in denial. Our restless souls only begin to find rest when we recognize our restlessness for what it is. In the same way that recovery from an addiction starts with admitting one’s inability to control one’s drinking, finding rest for our restlessness starts with recognizing (admitting) that we often are wandering aimlessly in a sea of many distractions, looking for the More yet also finding ourselves far from It.

And the distractions themselves are one reason we live in denial. I have to believe that today the human soul faces extinction more than at any other time in human history. The constant aerial bombardments of a rabid advertising industry and its seductive images threaten to keep us from ever staring at the void which is our own spiritual emptiness. When Smart technology now commands daily existence, it is far too easy to succumb to the interruptions of ceaseless texts, e-alerts promising last-minutes sales you’ll regret you missed, or trending conversations on Facebook and Twitter. (By the way, I just checked what’s hottest on Facebook, and with some 4 million followers, it would have to be the fact that this Valentine’s Day, instead of the same old boring red roses, you can now get a Star Wars bouquet, thanks to retailer ThinkGeek. Think nine cuddly Star Wars characters on a bed of tissue paper and wrapped with a bow that you can quickly transfer to a vase on your dining room table and not have to worry about ever replacing.)

But I digress, as I’m often inclined to do in a world of endless digressions. Just the other day during an out-of-town business trip, I was attempting some quiet morning meditation from the confines of my hotel room. I thought I’d try a devotional on my phone, being away from my Bible and having not discovered the Gideon one tucked away in the nether parts of a bathroom drawer. In the course of just a few minutes, having begun to read the day’s passage, I was responding to texts about the Madonna concert. Could I come? Of course! But I had to get a sitter.

In a few moments I was texting the sitter.

Here is the irony: today’s world enables, abets and amplifies our restlessness while also anesthetizing it, so that we can go through life with a severe case of spiritual ADHD and never realize it.

Pope Francis gives voice to this capacity for distraction in his latest encyclical on climate change, which is as much, I suspect, a sobering commentary on the state of our own souls. In fact, I suspect the same denial that (the pope observes) feeds global paralysis on climate change is also at the heart of our spiritual restlessness. To paraphrase this papal appeal to protect “our common home,” we are stuck in a harmful cycle of consumption in which getting and getting more have become the easy, unquestioned mantra of our capitalist system.

Last night we watched the movie “The Walk” about that crazy French guy, the high-wire artist, who in 1974 tightrope-walked between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. At one point during his shock-and-awe act, he dares to look down and face “the void” below, as he terms it. The full, dramatic reality of the present moment and its transformative impact sets in.

When we allow ourselves even for a few moments to stare into the void of our soul, we’re able to recognize our spiritual restlessness for what it is. We’re able to exit denial, if only temporarily. That’s when “rest” becomes more than a mirage, and our capacity to receive rest a real possibility.

“R” is for “Recognize.” By recognizing our spiritual condition of restlessness, we begin to enter in ever so slowly to the rest that is ours, a rest that comes only from God.

 Join me again next week for our ongoing series, “The 12 Steps for Restless Souls,” as we unpack the acronym “REST.”






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