Are you standing still or making ‘progress’?

September 21, 2011 | Uncategorized

I thought I’d share my latest Life Lines column. Life Lines has appeared monthly in Catholic New York for the past 10 years.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

When I began this column 10 years ago, the world was a very different place. My plan to write about the intersection of faith and everyday life was propelled into high gear by 9/11 and all that played out in the days that followed, both in our country and in our home. Suddenly my young children had questions that had no real answers. I had questions that had no real answers. I think we all did.

There was nothing we could do but move forward, slowly, shakily at first, but with more strength and confidence as the days went by. Now, looking back, I realize that as much as the outside world has changed in the past decade, so has my internal world, the landscape of my soul. Much of it has been explored and expressed in the 650-word jolts I put on paper each month; more has been poured out on the pages of my books and the posts of my blog.

It has been a challenging journey, filled with desperate lows – like the one we all experienced on that clear September morning – and joyous highs – like the birth of my third child, the publication of my four books, and the ongoing interior pilgrimage that is my spiritual journey. Someone recently asked me if I had any breakthroughs to share. At first I laughed at the prospect, but the comment caused me to pause and reflect on the changes that have taken place without my even realizing it.

I think most of us imagine we’re standing still, whether it’s in our professional lives or personal lives or spiritual lives. We look at the big picture and can feel as though we’re simply not making progress. I know I often look at my cluttered desk, cluttered kitchen counters, and equally cluttered prayer life and think: “Nothing’s happening here.” But, when I go back to September 2001 and mentally walk the path from there to here in my mind, I realize I’ve come a lot farther than it appears on the surface.

You’ve heard me talk (whine?) in this space about my struggles with prayer, struggles with motherhood, struggles with multi-tasking, struggles with everything from laundry to oatmeal. I tend to be more open about my struggles than about my strides because I never want to get too comfortable, never want to sit back and think, “I’ve arrived.” Perhaps because we never really arrive. We may have breakthroughs, we may find ourselves stepping out into the unknown with total faith, but the truth is, there’s always more work to be done, always another step to be taken.

Today my prayer life is far different than it was 10 years ago, as is my spiritual focus. Where before I was simply happy to get something out of Sunday Mass while a fussy baby clawed at my hair, today my spiritual routine includes praying parts of the Divine Office daily, slices of silence sprinkled throughout my days, regular spiritual reading and sporadic spiritual blogging, an annual retreat, and the desire for ongoing pilgrimage – whether to Rome or Auriesville or simply to the farthest reaches of my heart.

Where have you been this past decade and where do you want to go next? Chances are, if you take some quiet time to reflect on your life, you, too, will realize you’ve moved much farther toward your goal – whatever that might be.

“God is in the details,” but sometimes we don’t take the time to notice the details. We want progress to come with a thunderclap, an “aha moment” that will change us all at once. But sometimes, most times, progress comes in the still small voice, in the tiny but brilliant flashes of light that change us bit by bit and forever.

To read previous Life Lines columns, visit


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