It’s easy to look at great saints and be intimidated.
Whether it’s the stories of their personal holiness, their martyrdom, or just that their greatness is so revered, we tend to think it’s out of reach. We think that a deeply intimate, personal relationship with God is something reserved for someone that’s not us. But it should be encouraging to know that a “saint” is just a person who ends up in Heaven once God calls them home.
Getting to heaven isn’t just possible for us, it’s encouraged, and when you break it down it can be incredibly simple! Daily duties that otherwise seem mundane, pointless, or something you could just go without and be fine, when instead offered to God as prayers, can become vehicles for us to grow in relationship with Him and get us closer to our eternal reward.
Here’s 7 tips to help you grow closer to your heavenly reward each day before lunch:
1) Pop out of bed with the first alarm
The first one might just be the hardest. When it comes to waking up in the morning, I’m the worst offender of hitting snooze a few times before waking up (also known as the “Holy Trinity of Snoozing” phenomenon). However, St. Josemaria Escriva spoke about the value in doing the opposite:
The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish. (The Way, 206)
Despite getting a few more minutes of shut-eye, the difficulty of rolling out of a warm bed into the cold, so-not-bed environment of your room can, rightly considered, be good for your soul.
2) Make your bed
In the first chapter of James, we read that “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1.17). Your bed is a good gift. Taking care of that gift (and any other) is a natural way of showing honor and being thankful to God for it. Right out of the gates in the morning, taking 30 seconds to make your bed will not only get you praying before breakfast, but it will start your day off with a small sense of accomplishment.
3) Say a little extra grace before breakfast
As much as you might be tempted to say the “Bless us, O Lord…” prayer in 5 seconds or less before diving into your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, it’s always better to make an intention for someone or something else that could use prayers that day. Doing so will make saying grace less of an obligation and more of an offering, and that’s always a good thing.
4) Take care of your dishes
It doesn’t get simpler than this. Whether it’s just putting them in the dishwasher or washing them and leaving them to dry, it’s still a task that’s more difficult than just leaving them in the sink for later. Offering that extra minute up as a prayer for someone you’ll encounter later that day as you’re washing will make it all worth it.
5) Smile at a stranger on your way to work
Not in a creepy way, of course. Studies have shown for decades the value of a simple gesture of kindness like a smile at someone on the street. It’s really easy to walk past someone while we’re checking our phones, or to ignore a homeless person on a street corner, but challenging ourselves to look someone in the eye and give them a genuine smile helps us to recognize both their personhood and God’s presence in our fellow humans.
6) Deny the urge to snack between breakfast and lunch
When Jesus said, “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9.23), I don’t think He was referring to us saying no to the box of donuts in the break room. However, there’s something to be said about denying ourselves small pleasures as a way of prayer. Those little micro-fasts are great opportunities to say, “Lord, this stinks, because I really like donuts. But for You and for this person I’m praying for, I can go without it.”
7) Take notice of something you normally wouldn’t
The world we live in is filled with a remarkable amount of goodness, beauty, and intentional order that nearly always go unnoticed. Our busy existence usually does little but cause additional stress, so it follows that giving ourselves a mandated break from that busy-ness to observe a simple beauty will offer us a reprieve and some much-needed peace.
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
All of these things boil down to one central point: thinking of yourself less and serving others more. It’s the great paradox of our call to holiness. We have been given freedom, and in 1 Peter we read, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
A grand plan of action—biting off half the elephant when you can only chew one bite at a time—isn’t what anyone has to do to get to heaven. A year-long mission trip in a third-world country may be what God is calling some people to do; that’s just fine and dandy, but God’s call to holiness isn’t necessarily measured according to how many miles we travel or how many mouths we feed over the course of our lives. Our journey to heaven is measured by how and when we say “Yes” to that call, even when it’s as simple as making our bed.