"Lazarus, Come Out!"

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Too many are dead in their faith. And there are so many ways to be dead. This is part of what Jesus meant when He said, "Narrow is the way and strait is the gate that leads unto salvation." For indeed, the way of living faith is narrow indeed.

Some are dead in their political faith. While politics should always be informed by religious sensibility, the spiritual life should never be informed by politics. When it becomes so, it goes astray, looking for secular solutions to eternal problems and straying from the narrow way. That is not to say that those with a political faith do not know Jesus, but they do not know Him in His fullness. They have chosen their own way to know Him rather than His way to know Him.

However, the form of dead faith and half-life that is most insidious and most hidden is regret--either conscious or unconscious over things done or left undone. Regret is another killer of faith because regret always lives in the past and faith is the eternal present. The person of faith is informed and formed by his or her past, but that person is not slave to their past. We don't see St. Teresa of Avila dwelling on her past even as she struggles to write her life. There is the constant infusion and interjection of the person St. Teresa is now, and a kind of irritation about talking about the past and all of its dead things.

So too with St. Therese, who wrote of the past in obedience, but whose past and present constantly fuse and intermingle. The past is only important as it exists in who we are now. What we did not choose, what we did not do is part of who we are, but it is not to be dwelt on, merely learned from.

When we enter the land of regret, we enter the tomb. And interestingly, regret is one of Satan's slyest weapons, because often the regret might be over vocations not pursued, spiritual opportunities not embraced, good paths not taken. All of these things can be very good things if they help us to make the right choices for the future. But more often than not regret is a form of creeping paralysis. What I did not do in the past I cannot choose to do now. That opportunity is gone and will never come again and I cannot be whole unless I can go back and undo it. And because I cannot, I am not who I could be and I cannot make the choices I would make.

What utter nonsense! What we did not do in the past, what we rue today, we can choose to undo in different ways. Let the past become present and remember the incorrect choice and use it as a guide, a signpost to make the correct choice. The Road to Joy is marked by many, many self-created sorrows. If we let Satan have control, we can continue down that long dark path, Orpheus descending. But as soon as we learned how to use the past to inform the present, as soon as we push regret out the door and call upon God in faith, Jesus says to us, "Lazarus, come out!" We, who were the people Christ wept over when He learned that we were dead, return to Him, live and vibrant and complete in Him.

But to do this requires complete surrender. It requires us to say, "Je ne regrette rein." I am who I am because of what has gone before. My choices made this person, and even this person is one whom God loves beyond all telling. This person can choose life, can choose God at any moment. This person can shed the dead past and enter into the vibrant, living present. This person can come alive in Christ.

Are there things in your past that you would choose now not to have? Are there things, experiences you would choose to undertake? If so, turn regret into joy by recalling these things and using them as guides. God gave us signposts in His interactions with us. It is time that we came to understand His signposts and used them to move toward Him. Pull off the shroud and join the living. Give up regret, for Lent and forever. Live in light and joy--turn the past darkness into a beacon for the present and thank God for all that you have learned as a result of what has happened in the past.

Narrow is the way and strait is the gate that leads unto salvation. But that narrow way is Jesus Christ, the vast eternity of Incarnate Love. And that straight gate is love of Him and embrace of his life, death, and resurrection. Hardly what we would think of as narrow or strait in comparison to the small prison of self that we choose when we choose regret, greed, politics, or anything other than God. Jesus speaks of a narrow way, but I see a passage the size of a world, the size of a galaxy, the size of the Heart of God. It is narrow because there is only one way to it--surrender.

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Thank you for these reflections, Mr. Riddle. All summer I've been struggling with regrets about various things done and undone -- I'm turning 60 in November-= and what you say about paralysis is so true. It's insidious, like most of Satan's tactics, and your post has opened my eyes quite a bit. I remembered the following quote: "Yesterday's history; tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift; that's why we call it 'the present'. God bless from Canada.

Dear Mrs. Gonzalez,

I did not know why I wrote it, not entirely at least, and your message is a wonderful gift to me. Thank you for writing.



I second that thought! I think the older a person gets, the more they have to regret and you are right - it is such a terrible waste of time. I'm currently teaching elementary general music when I had wanted to be a professional flute player. My husband has remarked to me that I am not using my musical talent to the fullest in this job, but somehow I can't agree. I think that what I do in the classroom every day is important and meaningful. I have the chance to influence many lives for good if I can only stay on task. Your words have reminded me that the narrow way is the only way to go. Thank you for making it sound appealing and not as I have often thought, like a straight jacket.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 24, 2006 9:15 AM.

Children as Waste was the previous entry in this blog.

"Friends of Christ" is the next entry in this blog.

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