Forms of Devotionals
I’ve been doing some thinking lately, regarding a topic I briefly mentioned in my last post—spontaneous devotionals vs. ritualized, consistent devotionals.
At the start of my relationship with my patron, spontaneous devotionals were the only sort I did. Doing devotional work because I had to was unthinkable—I felt as though forcing myself to honor my god meant my work would lose all its sincerity and become a menial task.
I’ve often heard people relate forming patron relationships with deities like dating, and it seems like a pretty accurate metaphor. There’s the honeymoon phase, where everything you do is with your patron in mind, every breath you take becomes a whisper of love and thanks. Then you slowly start to peel away the romanticized view of your patron and relationship, and realize that like any relationship, this will take work from both ends.
The ‘honeymoon’ phase of my patronage lasted quite a while—two or three years, I would say. Within those years, I didn’t have to strain to hear or feel my patron—I knew he was there. It was like stepping outside and being aware of everything—the warmth of sunlight hitting your bare skin, the breeze playing with your hair, the smell of rain. I didn’t have to go looking for our connection, it was just always there.
This sensitivity to my patron made it easier to connect with him, and to break out into spontaneous devotional multiple times a day. It was something that came as naturally as breathing.
But now that I’m past that phase, now that I don’t sense him as easily anymore, I realize that I’ve been relying on him to instigate my devotionals. I was in need of constant reminders of his presence to acknowledge him, however easy it might have been.
Now I can go days, weeks even, without having that awareness of his presence. It’s getting harder and harder to be sincere in my work, and occasionally I forget why I do it. When I doubt myself or when I doubt Him, it’s a struggle to sing like I used to, or even just bask in his warmth. I know he’s still here, but it shouldn’t be his sole responsibility to tap into our connection. For so long, I relied on him to be the spark of inspiration necessary for my devotionals, that I forgot my role in our relationship. I can just as easily reach out to him, instead of waiting for him to reach out to me—I just refused to, be it because of my lack of faith, or my skepticism, or my lingering doubts.
And that, I see now, is where daily or ritualized devotionals come into play. While it may not be as heartfelt as spontaneous devotionals, it too serves its own purpose—and in my case, that purpose is to remind me of my patronage.
It is to remind me of the work I’ve done, the obstacles I’ve overcome, the experiences I’ve had, and the love I’ve felt. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come, both as a person, and as a devotee.
And, I think He appreciates this just as much as spontaneous devotionals, if not more. With spontaneous devotionals, they’re usually always in the form of praise, honor, and thanks-giving. Because he sees us as equals, this doesn’t always jive well with him. I think he tolerates it because it is what I grew up with, and is all I’ve ever known in terms of how to honor one’s god. That being said, he has broken me out habits that he sees as totally unacceptable, such as kneeling while praying. Even thanking him too often or for little things has gotten me scolded before, so I’ve learned to restrain myself.
Like I said, it requires work from both ends of the relationship.
I find it interesting that your patron sometimes scolds you (or, at least, has scolded you in the past) for offering too much thanks and/or praise.
This year, I studied Mormonism, mostly because I live in an area where a lot of Mormons live and I wanted to be able to at least converse superficially with them about their own religion. I did a six-month Investigation (their word for it, not mine), wherein I was told repeatedly that (1) members of the Mormon faith are only allowed to have “faith-promoting” conversations with each other and with non-Mormons—no doubting allowed—and (2) God wants a person’s praise, thanks, and worship (“positive” things), not their lamenting/sorrow, anger, or criticism (“negative” things). The idea was/is that God has done so much for us, even before we were born, that to be anything but eternally grateful and completely “faithful” (by their definition only) to Him was/is selfish, hurtful, and blasphemous.
Now, if that does it for you, then… fine, I guess. But I need a little more depth (and a little less structure) in my relationship to God, and I told the missionaries that. I am a doubter. It’s what I do. And I’m not usually a happy(-go-lucky) person, either, so 100% praise and adulation 100% of the time is pretty much right out.
I don’t have a patron deity. I don’t know, honestly, if I could really handle one very well at this point in my life, and I think the deities to whom I pay reverence understand that. Well, I don’t know what they think about it, actually, because I’m not them. I have this idea in my head that I have to get my shit together before I can have a serious relationship with any one deity so that I will take it as seriously as I think I should. It could be, though, that one of them is waiting for my life to finish falling apart so they can pick up the pieces afterward. But maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part. ^_^;; Maybe I just can’t commit. I don’t know. Maybe I’m worried about being a poor disciple.