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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not a very good Christian ... and why not? What is missing?

An open letter to Jesus Christ:

Dear Lord:

First, thank you for this day, and thank you for having made me Catholic. I really appreciate it, all of it: You dying on the cross for my multitudinous sins, You giving me all the graces and truth I can get in the Church and the Church alone ... everything. I am very grateful.

But I have a question, God: Why aren't I like these other Christians, these ones who can feel joy no matter what, these ones who can convert people simply by the fact that they are always filled with joy?

Lately, I have been inundated with thoughts of inadequacy. For the life of me, I cannot figure why I was born. Certainly, why was I born with the neurological disabilities that I was? Was it my mother's smoking and drinking the first few months of the pregnancy until she learned out I was inside her? Did I have to pay for her weakness, her sins, her habits?

Because it makes being a saint really hard, Lord. It makes it beyond hard. Everyday I have to see evidence of this in the curt comments to my wife, in the overboard reactions I mete out on my children for their being, well, children. Each day brings the shame that without taking three or four medications, I will be a monster. Do you know how that feels? You were like us in all things but sin, Lord, but I don't recall Your being neurologically disabled.

I'm almost 50, God. I'm on the downward side of 45. And I look at what my friends and associates have attained. Now, granted, some of them have attained it at great cost to their family life or their pocket books. What looks like so pretty on the outside is in danger of being foreclosed upon, repossessed, etc.

Nonetheless, here I am, and I'm still struggling. I went to college so I would make a good living. I thought that's what I'd get out of the bargain: Put in four years now, get a degree, work hard, and become prosperous. Maybe even get a little financial security along the way.

Instead, it's been nothing but struggle, not the least of which has come from the difficulty I've had in keeping a job due to my neurological disorders. We have bought into society's lie that one needs to be financially secure in order to be happy. I know it's a lie. But financial struggles are a drag, a real drag, and walking away from the lie is exceedingly difficult. If only I didn't fret about this bill, if only I didn't have to worry about where my kids' tuition was coming from, if only I could get on top of this-or-that debt, then I could breath easy. Then I could feel some security.

And I probably could have had this, but I keep getting in the way. For instance, I have a pretty big, important freelance project, God. You know this. It's in service of you. I was given very explicit instructions on what to do. I forgot them. I totally forgot them. So I spent the better part of a week working on an aspect of the project that wasn't needed or wanted. And the only reason I know this is that my client told me so. Can't I do anything right?

I feel like a waste of space. I feel as though the world would be better off had I never been born. My wife could have a good husband who had a better temperment. My kids wouldn't have to suffer such an inconstant father.

I'm frightened, Lord. I really am. I see what damage my actions do to my soul every day. I read about how mystics have seen even the souls of priests and religious in hell. These are, presumably, people who begged and pleaded for Your mercy for their sins. And yet there they are. I know I offend Thee Who art all good and worthy of all my love by my actions, and it breaks my heart that I do this, not only because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but because it offends Thee, my God. But it also fills me with dread: Eternity is an awful long time. Sometimes I feel my seeming inability to acquire virtue and leave behind my disvirtue, my sinful and persistent inclinations, etc., dooms me to hell, that no amount of repentance or contrition will suffice to wipe away the debt I have incurred.

I know You are larger than that, O Lord. Iesu, confido in Te. It still doesn't stop me from fearing.

I'm in a low spot right now, God. Please help me find that joy that others seem to have. Please help me to know my worth. Please enable me to not sin, because I don't know how not to do it.

I cry out with St. Paul, I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Well, I guess if St. Paul can do it, so can I. Until then, Lord, I can completely feel Satan pressing to “sift [me] like wheat” (cf. Luke 22:31; 1 Pet 5:8), so please obtain through the Father my ability to persevere until I have turned. For right now, I feel somewhat desperate.

Thank you, God,
Your servant,

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