Lent Reflection day 32
For the last two days we’ve considered those who utterly reject the love of God and set their faces against any communion with Him. But this is not you, brothers and sisters, and it’s not me either. We’ve started down the path of those who care for their souls, and while we are concerned with those who have not, and even may take time to encourage them toward spiritual things, we ourselves are not one of them.
The thirty-second chapter of Unseen Warfare looks at the next step, where a person has decided to pursue communion with God and sets out to do so. To quote the book: But suppose someone has overcome the first two obstacles, is filled with desire to be free of the bondage of sin and has begun to work for it without delay. Even here the enemy does not leave him alone. He changes only his tactics, but not his evil desire and hope to make that one stumble against some stone of temptation and so ruin him. The holy fathers describe such a one as being under fire from all sides: from above and below, from left and right, from front and rear, from everywhere arrows speed towards him. Arrows from above are suggestions for excessive spiritual works, above our powers, arrows from below are suggestions to reduce or even completely abandon such works through self-pity, negligence and heedlessness; arrows from the right are when, in connection with some right undertakings and works, the enemies lead us into temptation and the danger of downfall, arrows from the left are when the enemies present concrete temptations and draw us towards sin, arrows from the front are when the enemies tempt and disturb us by thoughts of what is to come, arrows from the rear are when they tempt us with memories of past deeds and events.
What are we to do when we’re surrounded by such attacks? The first suggestion of Unseen Warfare is that we find a competent spiritual guide to help us: After someone has decided to abandon the wrong ways and actually does abandon them, the first task of the enemy is to clear a space for an unhampered field of action against him. He succeeds in this by suggesting to the one who has entered the right path that he should act on his own and not go for advice and guidance to the teachers of righteous life, who are always attached to the Church. The one who follows their guidance and verifies all his actions, both inner and outer, by the good judgment of his teachers — priests in their parishes in the case of laymen, or experienced guides in monasteries — cannot be approached by the enemy. Whatever he may suggest, the experienced eye will at once see where he is driving and will warn his pupil. In this way all his wiles are defeated. But if one turns away from his teachers, the enemy will at once confuse him and lead him astray. There are many possibilities, which do not look evil; and those he suggests. The inexperienced novice follows them and falls into an ambush, where he is exposed to great dangers or is destroyed altogether.
How critical it is that we find a good spiritual guide to direct us in the life of holiness. It is as necessary as attending university to become a professional, or finding an experienced tradesman to teach us a trade. Without it, we’re lost. The first step in the process of finding someone is to pray that God would help you find such a person. When we ask, He rises up to help us.