Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lord, make me pure...but not yet!

Praying for yourself. It’s something you either do too much or never even consider.

Sure, we all ask God for things: a passing test grade, healing of a relative’s cancer, an open parking space. Some of us might go further, asking for peace of mind, patience with a particular person, or humility (that’s the hardest—God always responds to a request to humble us). Maybe you’ve even prayed to overcome a particular vice or habit. But the funny thing is that God always seems to take His sweet time responding to requests like “God, make me pure,” or “Lord, help me stop smoking/drinking/gambling/watching porn/etc.” 

Lord, give me patience--and give it to me NOW!

Why is this? Is Jesus deaf? Insensitive? Out to lunch? Well, the shocking answer is that, more often than not, our vices are good for us.

Before you gleefully return to your Wii, cancer sticks, or girly videos, dig me (I’ve been watching too much Hawaii Five-O—the original series, mind you). Vices themselves—whatever they may be—are not good for us and obviously cause very real damage to our bodies, minds, and souls. And just as a side note: if you’re not sure if you’re addicted to something or not, try going without it for a few weeks—that’ll tell you.

God can only free us from an addiction if we want to be free, and if we don’t want to be free, we should at least have the presence of mind to pray for that desire. Once we actually receive the grace to fight against our dark side, each victory is a step closer to the beautiful, pure freedom and peace that Jesus offers us. 

Happy Sarge just got out of confession!

 However, each fall back into sin can be a (very) humbling reminder of our complete and utter helplessness. If we’ve been riding high and clean for a while, we tend to get a bit cocky about it. We become less careful. We wander a tad closer to the things that *used* to cause us to fall. We tug our lifeline a little and see just how far we can go before the grace of God somehow magically snatches us back.

Perhaps some of you have prayed for years to be freed from a certain vice or addiction, but it seems like you keep sliding backwards two steps after going forward one. You want freedom so badly you can taste it, but God has been stingy.

First of all, you might want to think about what exactly you are asking for in your prayers. Are you literally asking God to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye to keep you from sinning again? (I’ve thought of asking for this, but since my current job requires the use of power tools there’s plenty of opportunity for that already). Are you asking God to take away the temptations? He might, but He also very well might not, and there is a reason for this. Taking away the temptations themselves doesn’t get to the root of the problem. God, expert psychiatrist that He is, knows that there is a deep wound behind your vice, and merely removing you or shielding you from the situation isn’t going to solve anything in the long run.

There is Biblical proof for this in the letters of St. Paul, who was beaten daily by a demon and suffered an excruciatingly painful thorn in his side. “The good which I will, I do not,” Paul cries, “but the evil I will not, that I do…unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?”

But Jesus does not deliver him. Jesus merely says “My grace is sufficient for you.” And later St. Paul would write “We know that to those who love God, all things work together for good.” “Even their sins,” adds St. Augustine (and he should know, of all people!).

Bitterness and anger after a fall come from our offended pride and self-love; we regret the fact that sin humiliates us more than the sin itself. It is vital that we give God all of the credit for our victories, because it is solely His strength that sustains us. So whenever you feel yourself smirking in satisfaction over your apparent virtue, offer it back to God with a humble prayer affirming your dependence on Him.

Make no mistake: God does want you to be free from whatever is chaining you down, and He will do whatever it takes to liberate you. “Whatever it takes” is key here. We might expect Him to just wave His omnipotent hand over us and poof! No more temptations! No more sin! It doesn’t work that way, and like I said before, it doesn’t heal the real problem underneath. God will heal you of your afflictions in His own way, even if it means falling 10,000 times and going to confession 10,000 times. Remember, as long as you keep asking for God’s mercy, the devil can’t win.

Good luck. Keep praying. Now, I should probably start praying myself for the grace to want to be free from my current Hawaii Five-O addiction.

BOOM ‘EM, DANNO! Er, Ciao!

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