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"Sucking With Style"

alec vanderboom

You'll never guess what extra penance this Carmelite took on for Lent! Extra fasting? No. Extra prayers? Nope. A hair shirt? No way!

Instead, I took "Cardio Dancing"* on Friday mornings at my new gym. Isn't that funny? I felt so self-conscious that I should be doing something gigantic or at least more traditional for God. Yet my heart simply tugged me in that direction.

And it was a good thing that I obeyed because I learned SO MUCH about my spiritual life.

First, I realized that as an adult, I'm rarely in new situations that make me uncomfortable. I'm no longer forced to take P.E. class like in high school. I'm not getting graded on trigonometry. I pick and choose things that I mostly feel "good at". Now I wonder now how many of the hated trials in my life are simply things that rub against my sin of perfectionism and my fear of looking incompetent.

Exercise Dance Class is a funny thing for me. I love, love, LOVE to dance. Something about moving to music is so beautiful. Yet I'm totally horrible at picking up new dance steps. Once I know a step, I love to "preform." But that "learning curve" is agonizing. I completely lack kinetic intelligence or something.

Second, learning dance moves got a lot easier when I moved myself into the front row! Before Lent, I hid out in the back of my large class of sixty. But when I moved in the front it was amazing--I could see my instructor. I was totally flopping around up there, but I was showing myself that I was committed and in the game. Guess what? I picked up the new steps a heck of a lot faster in the front than in the back. I nicknamed this move "sucking with style!"

Third, I learned I need to keep my eyes on my dance instructor's feet and not my neighbors. When I was hiding in the back, I'd look at my neighbor's feet to learn the steps. When I was in the front row, there were no neighbors. I had to constantly watch my instructor. Guess what? She was always right! It took me half a class to realize that the "awesome" classmates that I was copying were often doing the steps wrong. No wonder I was getting so confused.

So how did this all translate into my spiritual life?

Carmel is sitting in the front row for me in the spiritual life. I'm six months away from making my temporary three year promise. It's embarrassing because I'm still a very weak Catholic. Despite my weakness and incompetence, I feel like the spotlight of Carmel (my standing up in the front row of the Catholic Church) is good for me. It's potentially embarrassing, but it is going to help me grow faster in my formation.

Jesus is my teacher. I need to keep my eyes on HIS feet. I need to follow his moves and not my neighbor's moves. Being in a church community is awesome. I'm a social butterfly and I'm way more motivated to clean up my soul when others around are in the same space, giving off their energy. But it's critical that I don't "copy" in the spiritual life. (i.e. I can't start moving to the left just because everyone around me is going that way.) While I can receive motivation and inspiration from others, my Spiritual footwork is directly taught from Christ himself--through HIS Word, His Sacraments, His Priests, and small whispers deep inside my heart during prayer.

*(I feel compelled to admit that after 5 months of joining my gym I have lost NOT ONE POUND of my baby weight. Not one pound! I still weigh exactly that same amount as I did on December 31. Good thing I'm gaining all this spiritual insight and enjoying the gym's free babysitting services because my work out motivation is not coming from a falling scale!)