“If you find that you have no love but desire to have it, do the works of love and the Lord will see your desire and effort and put love in your heart.”
~ St. Ambrose of Optina
Show me an article about Syrian refugees, aborted baby parts, child sex slaves, inner-city poverty, about any case of suffering and abuse, and I will weep on the spot. My heart will ache with empathy and helplessness. I will wake in the night begging God to bring relief to a world that is broken and hurting. Ask me, without prior notice, to interrupt my painstakingly planned schedule to do someone a favor, however, or to give you the cash in my wallet I was saving for a coffee treat, or to carefully and prayerfully consider your constructive criticism, or to be patient with the person being super rude and jerky right in front of me, and I will inwardly bristle and pout like a four-year-old. Isn’t that awful? It’s so embarrassing to admit.
What’s way more comfortable for me than facing up to my own deep rooted pettiness is to focus primarily on the “out there,” expressing outrage and sorrow on behalf of the anonymous masses and tapping into readily available, surface level proof of my Christ-like compassion for others. For awhile, I can be content with avoiding the proverbial elephant in the room, A.K.A the ballooning pride in my soul, but eventually the weight of it starts to oppress and depress me. The yuck I feel at not being able to overcome my own bitterness, envy, resentment, and other similar ugly characteristics is a spiritual wake up call – an invitation to become disentangled from the binding chains of egotism. RSVPing “yes” to that invitation requires humility, faith and work.
“Just as the blessings of God are unutterably great, so their acquisition requires much hardship and toil undertaken with hope and faith.”
~ St. Macarius the Great
After getting sucked yet again into a habit of embracing noise over stillness and self-gratification over self-denial, those first steps toward repentance can feel like wading through sand. Initially, even small rules of prayer take an exceeding amount of effort, and obedience in the form of submissive acts of service test my every resolve to be charitable. As with exercise, however, the struggle to break through my addiction to laziness and instantaneous gratification precedes the benefits of good health. The Church provides the tools I need to move from bondage to freedom, from emptiness to fullness, from a judgmentmental spirit to a merciful one, and from selfishness to meekness, but I have to choose every day, every moment, to show up and use them.
“Why do you increase your bonds? Take hold of your life before your light grows dark and you seek help and do not find it. This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.”
~ St. Isaac the Syrian
Seriously, I have no business whatsoever pointing out the specks in anyone else’s eye whilst having this ginormous log embedded in my own. Every ounce of my attention and energy would best be spent on continuously weeding out the hardness in my own heart, making more room for Christ and His limitless love, and trusting my resulting peace of soul will be a healing and hope-filled Light in the darkness. The salvific opportunities right here within my home and community to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Him are abundant!