Get Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start Again

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I'm looking for things to read during the great Lent. If you are as well, you could do worse than St. Thomas More's The Sorrows of Christ or Fr. Richard John Neuhaus's Death on a Friday Afternoon. But I happened on a book once started, since abandoned, and related to the theme of an upcoming silent Carmelite retreat: Spiritual Combat in the Carmelite Tradition--Lorenzo Scupoli's Spiritual Combat as amplified by Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory. (Jack, get moving. I really want to see the entire original without the extra notes and I can't find it anywhere else.)

Any way, I dipped into this book at the place my marker indicated that I had stopped and I came upon something perfect as a pre-thought for Lent or for any time.

We can examine whether we have developed genuine self-distrust or not by observing the effect made upon us when we sin. "If thou art so saddened and disquieted thereby as to be tempted to despair of making progress or doing good, it is a sign that thy trust is in self and not in God." We make a resolution, for example, to be patient, and we fail; or we make a resolution to avoid an occasion of sexual sin and then enter into the occasion and perhaps fall. In both cases there is often a disproportionate sense of failure and of grief. How could this possibly happen to me? What's the use of trying? The whole thing is unrealistic; I'll never be any good anyway.

This reaction shows we have been depending too much on our own efforts. If we really mistrusted ourselves, we would not be surprised when we fall, nor would we give way to despondency and bitterness. We would recognize that our sin flows quite naturally from the sort of people we are and that our reaction is occasioned as much by hurt pride as by sorrow at having offended God.

In other words, "Cowboy up. Stop yer bellyaching, and get back on the horse." Oops! I ate meat on a Friday--well, then repent and don't do it again. Oops, I meant to give x up and ate some or had some anyway. Oh well, it's time to trust in God renew the resolution and start all over.

Know that you will fail (at times spectacularly)--only God in you will succeed. If I rely upon myself I will find nothing but failure. If I rely on God, then my failings will meet with Brother Lawrence's reaction, "See what happens Lord, when you allow me to go my own way." Our failings are not the end of the world. Let God lift you up, brush you off, and then set out, as any toddler would, to explore the world anew, knowing all the while that there is more falling than standing up. But also knowing that Papa is there to lift us when we fall.

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Jack, get moving. I really want to see the entire original without the extra notes and I can't find it anywhere else.

Sorry. I really do need to get on the ball there. Maybe I could do more of that for Lent. I was originally going to read Cardinal Giovanni Bona's "Guidance to Heaven" (a 200 year old book I think) and it's good, but continuing my translation of "the Spiritual Combat" would be an idea too.


It's really interesting to read this, because I was more of the opinion that a lack of grief on my part was a lacking in remorse. As in, to sin and not feel regret is to be attached to the sin. I guess I need to discern between remorse for my sin and a incorrect sense of self-sufficiency.

Great thought for the day!


Dear Brandon,

Just to be clear--there's a lot of space between "no remorse" and soul-crushing, life-deadening, hopelessly despairing remorse. I feel remorse (as I'm sure you do), but it's more along the lines of , "Look what I get into when left to my own resources. I'm sorry Lord, help me." Now, that may not be sufficient remorse, but if I go much further, I get tangled up in the "If I'm always going to fail, why do I even try" school they talk about here.

Remorse and compunction are necessary, sometimes grief, but they should not be so great as to distract us from the essential point. God is reaching out to us even in our moments of complete ineptitude, even when we have utterly blown it for the ninety-seven millionth time. And He says, "You CAN do it, if you will let me help." Too often, we do not let Him.



Dear Brandon,

Oops, lest I be accused of semi-pelagianism, I should qualify my last remark--His "help" consists of Therese's elevator. He picks us up and moves us along. Anything short of that and we are relying on self. That's why complete surrender of everything we are so proud of (and not so proud of) is so critical to our advancement in the spiritual lives. Of ourselves, we can do nothing except refuse Him. Grace informs, motivates, and sees to completion every action in which we offer no resistance to it.



Good post and comments. I tend to think that any particular persistent sin is due to a lack of proper remorse on my part because if I hated the sin enough I wouldn't commit it. Remorse can be a tool I can use (note emphasis on "I" and not God and hence the problem with this) in that the more remorseful I can make myself feel the more I can avoid a particular sin in the future because the pleasure/pain scale will be tipped in favor of not sinning.

Oh - I wrote that last comment before I saw your most recent post.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 21, 2006 10:02 AM.

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