Friday, November 25, 2011

When God says you're good enough

When does God say you are good enough for him?

Do I have to constantly challenge myself every day and strive to be better than the next? Each day surpassing my previous goal? Does "good enough" consist of weekly or daily Rosaries, Lauds, Vespers, Compline, and some spiritual reading on the side? No.

God says we are good enough when we are not in mortal sin. We don't even have to try to do better than that. We can have moral certitude that we will go to Heaven when we die (you know, eventually) if we are not aware of any mortal sins.

Don't get me wrong. It's good to challenge yourself. It's good to try to be better. But it's not what is absolutely necessary. Sometimes, it's good just to take a step back and focus on doing the basics right.

Why do I say all this? I have known a lot of people in my life that have struggled with scrupulosity. Seriously people, it can destroy a soul worse than laxity. Guard yourself against it at all costs. If you struggle with it to an extreme, my prayers go out to you, for I have personally known no more difficult struggle for a spiritual life. I have heard of stories where a woman called her priest because she needed to know what type of beans would be the most charitable for her family (one tastes better, one is more healthy).

I will make a slight confession that I have noticed a bit of a struggle with it in myself lately. I came from a place where you could really only go to Confession on the weekdays (which took a LOT of adjusting when I was used to going on Saturdays). Now I have to adjust to being a Trad and going on Sunday mornings. This means that I get to go to Confession right before Mass every week. Luckily, most days I don't have to worry about being able to receive the Blessed Sacrament the 45 minutes after Confession. There is one concern regarding this, though. Now, if I don't go to Confession right before Mass, I am completely nervous about going to receive, even if it was the day before that I went to Confession.

Why do I have this problem?

There are several other factors, but most importantly, I am lacking in zeal for God right now. It's funny how when you don't feel close to God, that you think you aren't. Seems to me the opposite is said by the saints (Mother Teresa, I think St John Vianney, too). Those emotional ups and downs are just part of any relationship and they are often not a reflection of what actually is the case. It's not even that I don't feel close to God, but that I don't have the desire to feel much closer. I'm just going along, trying to do what I'm supposed to and not much more. I think the problem is that I come from a place where idealists loom and say that if you're not giving everything you can at that very moment, you're sinning (or at least that it's a neccessarily bad thing). It's not a sin, I keep reminding myself, to rest for a little while. God kinda invented that. I have every intention of eventually trying harder to be better, to perfect my flaws. But right now I'm resting. As long as I don't slide backwards from it, I don't see how that's a problem

In fact, I've seen how avoiding resting CAN be a problem. I can think of two times in my life where it became a big one, one of which I almost left the Church. Both times I tried really hard spiritually. I was going to Daily Mass, doing weekly Rosaires,  and got my spiritual life in a place better than it ever was before. I exausted myself doing it, and then fell into a dark place in my soul. One of those times I tried to stop going to Mass entirely, but my (then) boyfriend would not permit it (thank God). I've noticed that I'm in a similar place right now where if I try too hard, I'll just end up falling away again.

The spirituality of St John of the Cross (Carmelite) is that you should give everything you've got. If you can do better, then do it. Perhaps that's okay if you are a lot stronger of a person than me. The spirituality of St Philip Neri seems to be to start trying on a less difficult scale (he particularly mentions fasting), becasue you can always add more later. This may sound like somehwat of a lazy approach, but I think it's a perfectly pastoral one when it comes to fragile souls like mine.

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