07 September 2009

Will I Forever Wear the Chains?

Everyone carries a cross--at least, ever Christian does. We learn that from the Lord Himself in St. Matthew's Gospel (16:24). That cross is the struggle to deal with our passions, our sins...all those things which the Orthodox Christian tradition identifies as "the world," by St. Isaac the Syrian's definition. And we must die to the world, on that cross, before we can be raised to the heavens with Christ. St. Dismas (aka 'the good thief') found salvation in an instant of repentance, suffering next to the Lord; some people think of his salvation as an extra-ordinary event (I have even advanced that understanding once or twice), but the truth is, it is still according to the Orthodox understanding of salvation. He worked out his salvation with fear and trembling--and physical suffering of the same kind as the Lord Himself. The world within him was crucified with his true repentance and holy fear at the same time that his body was being crucified for his crimes.

The thing is...even though I see this, and understand it, and, heck, even believe it, I have come to this weird place spiritually. Deliverance and salvation at once seem near at hand, and impossibly far away. The truth is, I am still chained by the weight of sins that I commit continually...repent of, confess...and then commit again. The Lord is longsuffering and of great goodness, and his mercy endures forever--but my patience with myself has none of those things. I do love Christ, but I love my sins far more.

A friend tells me that Elder Paisios said that the goal of our life was to learn to love the Lord more than we love sin. I am far, far from the goal, it seems. And those dark hours before the dawn, there every evil thought assaults my imagination, consciously and unconsciously, make me begin to feel that I will never be able to shed the chains of my sins. Even taking things a day at a time proves too much for me. Hour by hour, minute by minute.

Psalm LXIX
O God, be attentive unto helping me; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be shamed and confounded that seek after my soul. Let them be turned back and brought to shame that desire evils against me. Let them be turned back straightway in shame that say unto me: Well done! Well done! Let them be glad and rejoice in Thee all that seek after Thee, O God, and let them that love Thy salvation say continually: The Lord be magnified. But as for me, I am poor and needy; O God, come unto mine aid. My helper and my deliverer art Thou, O Lord; make no long tarrying.


Nicodemus said...

I can definitely relate, brother. I've been feeling the same way lately. I just have no patience with myself. I know God will forgive me and does repeatedly, but I have lately been full of hatred for myself. And I shouldn't be. I know God loves me and He created me and all that good stuff. I'm just not happy with myself and how over and over and over I return to the same sins. I will continue to pray for you. Please do the same for me. The Lord will bring us through this gloomy time.

Justinian said...

I think what is really driving me crazy is that I get these moments of lucidity--"coming to myself" as it were--and fall down and repent. Then...lo and behold if I don't go and screw up again within the hour. This is, indeed, a dark time of the soul for me. I am grieved if you are in a similar circumstance. God preserve us both.

Nicodemus said...

Yeah, I honestly have been guilty of the same thing myself. It's hard to stay focused when there's so much positioned around us to distract us, but all the same, that is no excuse. It'll take time and a lot of prayer to get through this but I'm positive we both can with the love and strength given to us from Christ. Lord, have mercy.

Justinian said...

The Lord look upon you with mercy and grace, Nico. Your are speaking the truth.