Ever since Fr. Olaf, our priest, delivered his homily on spiritual growth a few weeks past, his words have remained with me. I wish I had the quote from the desert father he used to share, but alas, I didn't make note of it. The essence of his sermon was this: when we spend years on our education, grade school through high school and then embark upon college and graduate years in order to obtain the knowledge and skills we need to begin a career, why do we think that spiritual growth/education comes without study?
"Do we assume this education comes to us by osmosis?", Fr. Olaf asked.
You could also liken it to an athlete. Why do we easily see how endurance training and eating properly and lifting weights contributes to a fit body and successful competition, but we fail to see how training in the spiritual realm benefits our soul?
We could spend a lifetime training for spiritual fitness. Reading Holy Scripture, praying, fasting, and reading the lives of the saints are great places to begin. Making these things a part of every day, whether we feel like it or not, has great benefits for the soul! Who doesn't want to be stronger in this regard? To be a great oak that others may lean on in times of trouble, or an anchor among friends going through traumatic circumstances... being a source of peace and able to share the light of the Kingdom of Heaven.
And something I've noticed about myself: the more time I spend on strengthening my spirit, the less inclined I am to succumb to temptations. It takes EFFORT, just like training for our business, academic or athletic goals. An effort that, toward the end of our days, will prepare us to share in the sentiments of St. Paul when he said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."