The ARM of St. Michael
Whatever the weakness, whatever the obsession, whatever the compulsion, whatever our defect, some of us may have carried the burden of affliction, the wound of addiction, a long time.
We know the recovery motto "Life is hard but life is good". We may not always agree "Affliction is hard but affliction is good", for we may have an harsh relationship with our deformity. We may have known great disappointment being unable to fix or change or remedy our condition. There may have been too, fear and repugnance of the ugliness, "the lack", an uncharity that wants to exterminate obsession and compulsion out of existence, or a hyper-chastity trying to outrun the helplessness of deeply malformed sexuality. We may go to extraordinary lengths to repress, avoid, avert, resist, squelch and deny the unendurable frailty.
Is there only inner violence and exasperation? Amidst the haste of desperate evasion, is there somewhere a sign of peace? Is there patience and trust? Have we faith? Jesus is sleeping on a cushion in a tossing boat.
The cross can be vexatious, at times maddening. Jesus taught us to love, even our enemies.For an addict that sounds complicated or impossible. But Christ has gone before us, he has blazed the trail, he has already consecrated the way of the Cross to make our same migration possible. The successful carrying of our cross is already infused with His grace.
The cross cries out not for scorn. Can we be tender and respectful, accepting toward our cross? Can we hate the sinful inclination but love the cross of weakness, the cross of waiting?
Temptation to the same old drink seems an outrage. But the situation changes for the veteran of prayer. The devout life begins in earnest with the commitment and habit to pray daily.On the breath of prayers, the other side of temptation is unveiled.
Jesus taught us to pray without ceasing, i.e. more than once a day. The image of streaming prayer issues forth. When our Savior was lead into the desert to be tempted by Satan, his perfect response in every instance was to quote scripture. Quoting scripture is praying. All of scripture is prayer. Prayer is being with God.
Temptation is aggravating because it is otherwise highly desirable to not have to struggle. When temptation arises, the veteran of supplication simply turns again to the Lord without fuss or ado. Temptation winds up stoking, increasing this life of prayer. To not pray or to say no to the effort or to struggle, is to want to be released to our own recognizance, to self-reliance, a questionable arrangement given our history.
The life of grace will not have it! We must boast in our weakness! We must valiantly court fortitude, the willingness to descend into battle at any moment. Our sword is prayer! Christ is the steel of the sword.
Compulsion is hazardous, the mission of Satan, the deadly plaything of the mind, leading us out of our heart, out of our body, unconscious of our breathing. At the same time, fear of the enemy attracts the evil, attracts the ravage. Fear and repression of compulsion, attracts more compulsion. What is feared and repressed will visit again, and again, until there is enough faith to wait it out, to stay calm without fear, to trust in God's delivering hand.
The waters may churn, but only for a time. The traditions of contemplation, the prayer of silent trust, await us. The prayer of St Theresa of Avila:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
After all the healing we may have been blessed to receive, that one wound addiction may still ooze. It is so perhaps, that we may want final escape to the true destination, which is not found on earth anywhere.
God is perfecting the good work begun in recovering addicts. It takes longer than imagined. The Deliverance tests our patience, at times severely. The length of life itself is sometimes thee trying frustration, not the addiction. St. Paul boasted in his weakness, so that the power and strength of God would dwell with him. We might take comfort in the fact that great Saint Paul was an addict of some kind, even perhaps a lust compulsive.
Martin Laird writes in "Into the Silent Land", of two persons; one who experiences little or no temptation and another who is much troubled by temptation."Those who struggle with temptation are clearly the more impressive. For even though they struggle to resist sin, at the same time they remain fixed on God. These are far worthier of praise and deserving of a far greater reward, and are far nobler than the first type, for the perfection of virtue is born in struggle (2 Cor. 12: 19). Trial, temptation, and struggle are the making of the contemplative. Take away these and you take away tremendous opportunity for growth, depth and wisdom."
To embrace our cross with love and hope is to meet our unacceptable past and our helpless legacy of behaviors with understanding and mercy. It is our small part. Prayer, faith and hope in God, fearless attention to the 'what is really going on here' of compulsion, remaining increasingly fixed upon the Lord of our powers, successfully confront temptation. "At some point we will be able to let go of our usual victimizing-victim relationship with temptation with sin and simply be still before it." We meet temptation with acceptance, a loving gaze of acknowledging what might be obvious: "yes I am sexually frustrated..." "I have no where to go.". Even though we may have mostly known getting upset till now, Jesus remains asleep on a cushion in a tossing boat.
Carrying the cross points toward heaven coming. In heaven there is no sin, no evil, no obsession, no compulsion, no addiction, no lust. Imagine the depressurized wonder of it, this absence of all struggle and tension. Here on earth, it is not possible, we would die of joy.
Death has been called the final healing.This is the meaning of final perseverance. The completion of this earthly life will heal us of the thing that long required grace. We will enter one day, if we persevere to the end, into the cleanness.
Lord Jesus, help us to embrace our cross with love and hope. Father of providence, help us to remember, every temptation is a rehearsal to choose You anew, to keep our eyes fixed upon You, an opportunity to pray. Grant us too the grace to know our part, to be still in the hour of temptation and know that You are God. Amen.