Monday, February 13, 2017

Rejoice in each day

I rejoice in each day's blessing as it comes, and never wish for more than does come. You, who are wishing the present to be better than it is, and fearing that the future may be worse, are meanwhile losing all enjoyment of the hour that now is. You think this wise. To me it seems as foolish as it is ungrateful!

Margaret Gatty
Parables from Nature

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Letting Go of Perfection


Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. We live in a fallen world and none of us can be perfect. We strive with all our might to live up to the Ideal we have set before us, but again and again we fail: we make poor choices, we hurt those dear to us, we act based on misunderstandings and miscommunication, and we mess up over and over. 

We can, of course, be sorry for our mistakes. All of us know regret and remorse. We try to clean up the spills and the broken fragments that remain as evidence of our carelessness or our folly. But try as we might to mend the tear, the fact is that the fabric will never be as good as new again. We can glue the broken pieces back together, but the jar will always show evidence of the crack.  

We may strive for perfection but we cannot attain it in this life. And you know what? That's ok. 

We must learn to strive for the ideal, while always remembering that we cannot reach it - yet. We must not attempt to have everything be perfect now because that's an invitation for more trouble. Intrusive thoughts will enter in and make a home in our hearts and they will tear everything apart even more. 

These are the thoughts that say,

*I am a failure

*My child is not who he should be

*My spouse is not behaving as a loving spouse behaves

*If so and so continues to act like this she will "ruin" her life

*Everyone will think badly of me or my family

*If I don't fix this problem I will "ruin" my child's life

*So and so doesn't treat people right 

*So and so is lying to me and it's my job to uncover the truth

*So and so doesn't fast

*So and so did something wrong and it's my job to spread the word

*I have failed my loved ones and myself

The list could go on and on with endless variations, but ultimately all these thoughts boil down to the reality that I think things "should" be a certain way and they simply are not. Sometimes these thoughts come internally and sometimes those around us suggest them to us. And we feel helpless and hopeless and panicked because we can't fix things. We want Perfect and we think we can have it now. We think we should have it now. 

The reality is that none of us can live up to the Ideal. The reality is that we must live with the consequences of sin; both our own sins and the sins of others. The fall of Adam was universal and we will never be free of the consequences until Christ comes again.

But that doesn't mean we must live in a state of despair and hopelessness. Those thoughts that intrude on our hearts don't have to be welcomed. Those comparisons and reminders of failure and all thoughts that cause us to wring our hands and react with anxiety and worry are nothing but useless trash that ought to be put out at the curb and not allowed to decompose in our hearts. 

We must accept our weaknesses and bear our shame and keep our eyes on Christ who is the only One who can fix this mess and make all things new. And what do we see when we behold Him? We see Him suspended on the cross, taking on all the shame and brokenness, all the mistakes and imperfections of the world upon Himself. 

We can't fix a thing. He does the fixing and the perfecting. He makes all things new and only asks that we take what we have in our hands and do our best to live in communion with Him that we may become whole once more. We can't compare and we can't judge and we can't expect perfection by worldly standards. 

Our God is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is always moving to effect our salvation and the mark of His hand can be seen everywhere if we will just take the time to look. We must give up our notions of what constitutes perfection our own ideas of every "Should" in life. The only thing for us to do is to focus on Him. As St. Seraphim said, we must simply seek to acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around us will be saved. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Confession

The last time I wrote I touched on the importance of Holy Communion. Our Christian life is not complete without regular participation in this most important sacrament. But here Fr. Hopko puts the sacrament of the Eucharist together with the sacrament of Confession, and makes it clear that in living a Christian life we need to participate in both.


I have a beautiful little book, less than a hundred pages, entitled The Forgotten Medicine: the Mystery of Repentance by Archimandrite Seraphim Aleksiev. I think it ought to be required reading for every Christian. It lays out clearly and succinctly why confession is important, addresses common reasons people have for not going, explains how to prepare and then make one's confession and describes the benefits of going regularly.

The recurring theme of the book is that we have succumbed to a serious illness because of the fallen world that we live in. Our God, as the great Healer of souls, has provided a remedy for our illness: Repentance.

It used to be that we were held captive by death and had no alternative but to waste away in sin and finally die in it with no hope. When Christ came and trampled down death by death He freed us from the curse and opened the gates of Paradise. We are all free to enter now, but first we must be cured of the parasitic disease that eats away at our hearts as we dwell in a world that still suffers the consequences of the Fall.

He has graciously provided the medicine which cures us, but if we do not take our medicine the disease, instead of being cured, will continue to progress. The cure is only effective when we follow the Doctor's orders, and that is what this little book shows so well; we ought to embrace the opportunity to confess our sins, because confession is the beginning of repentance.

And repentance is what sets our feet on the path that leads through those gates.




Sometime last year I posted a list of 55 Precepts for Christian Living by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I have seen the list circulated quite a bit since then and I recently came across the suggestion of journaling through each item on the list. I thought that was a wonderful suggestion and, as I considered doing it, I decided that I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.