Lent Reflection Day 12
Chapter twelve of Unseen Warfare contains a quote from St. Paul: I find then a law that when I would do good evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:21-23)
I had a meeting at church last night that I knew would be long, and since I don’t like to eat late at night, I ate dinner before I arrived. But alas, someone brought a pizza to the meeting. As soon as I saw it, I determined not to have any, because I had already had dinner. But it smelled so good! I lasted about an hour and a half before I had my first piece, and about an hour more before I ate a second.
While eating what was essentially my second dinner, I could hear two voices in my head. I’ve lost a lot of weight lately, and people who only see me occasionally make comments about how I “look good.” Consequently, when I’m tempted to overeat I hear a voice saying, “I can afford to do this, after all, I look good.” At the meeting, eating the pizza, that voice sounded loudest my mind. But I could also hear another voice which said, “You’re eating too much. Stop eating that pizza. You already had dinner. You’re such a dope!”
Two voices. As St. Paul says, when you’ve been at war with sin every day for many years, you notice two voices that compete for your attention. We decide to be serious about our faith, but then when we are tempted by some little thing a voice tells us that it’s not important to be serious about faith, that it’s OK to overlook the little things. That voice shouts, and drowns out the other one. What can we do?
Unseen Warfare teaches us: The chief reason why so few people attain to full Christian perfection is exactly their reluctance, through self-pity, to force themselves to deny themselves absolutely everything. But if, having overcome great passionate tendencies, they do not wish, thereafter, to compel themselves to overcome small ones, which seem unimportant, then, since these small tendencies are the outcome and expression of the great, by indulging in them they inevitably feed the latter, and so make them continue to live and act in the heart, in spite of the fact that they no longer manifest themselves of a large scale. And so the heart remans passionate and impure, and above all, in no way freed from self-indulgence and self-pity, which always make any practice to please God of doubtful value.
So at the meeting last night I determined to be patient and kind toward those present, and try to provide a good example during what would be a long and difficult meeting. But what would make me NOT be patient and kind? Self-indulgence, which is exactly the sin I embraced when I ate the pizza. So Unseen Warfare is right. We determine in our hearts to follow God, and a particular sin comes to mind. We determine to avoid it, but the root of the sin is not addressed, because other sins that those roots cause continue, unabated and unaddressed. I was still patient and kind last night, but since I never addressed the root of the sin, I look ahead to plenty of other meetings left in my career where I can go off the rails.
Attention to the little things, brothers and sisters, is what gives us the advantage over the demons who urge us to forget God. As we come to this twelfth day of the Lenten journey, perhaps we notice that the little things have started to bother us. We must maintain our position of strength, relying on God alone, on His love and forgiveness. In this way, the good voice becomes the louder voice, and we overcome.