I am ready to write again. You will likely read and notice a few differences though. For one thing I do not intend to cover up my weaknesses quite so much anymore. Do not get me wrong—God has done huge things in my life and I do not wish to in any way glorify my less-than-perfectness either. However, too often I have seen, and not just in others but in myself as well, the tendency to put my best foot forward and keep the other one hidden out of sight, so to speak.
I sin daily. Most if not all (actually all, whether intentionally, consciously or not) of you reading this do so as well. We also live in a day and age that is unprecedented in its ease to fall in various ways, in particular sexually. That particular discussion may make some of us uncomfortable—I know it does in my life. But I still fall in areas, and that is one of them. I have been celibate, in that I have not had nor have I sought person to person contact with another human, male or female, since 1999. That is nearly 17 years, and the last 10 as a Catholic Christian. So far so wonderful, right? Yes—and no.
Before you go congratulating me on such an accomplishment, I will openly say that my mind is at times a virtual cesspool. My computer too. Living alone with the WWW at my fingertips has some built in occasions of sin, and I cannot pretend I never have allowed myself to become trapped from time to time due to that combination. I have seen lately a multitude of articles by people who “used to” struggle in this area, and that is truly great and inspiring. I can take nothing away from that and am not attempting to do so. But what of those who have yet to overcome? Those who try all the techniques of prayer, fasting, daily Mass and rosary, and every other good idea on the lists of those who have “made it?” And still fall more than flat into the sewer after doing so?
And that is where I am at. Overcoming, and failing. Overcoming again, and then falling worse yet. Celibate but not chaste. Born again virgin but occasional internet whore. All of that can describe me and more. Not always but sometimes. In between such moments I do indeed seek God in the ways mentioned and have not given up hope. Not at all. But it can be deathly discouraging to be the one who does not quite seem to get over this area of what is a sometimes intense struggle. Reading of other’s victories can, at times, have the unwitting effect of tempting a person such as me to near despair. If I really wanted the victory, if I was truly consistent, if I honestly came to the “end of myself” (whatever or however that may look like) I would be able to write one of those victory articles too instead of one which sounds like I have given up on all that I hold sacred, which I nearly have at times, by the way. More than you the reader know. And not so long ago either.
But one thing keeps me going. What God has started within us, He does tend to finish. In fact He promises to do so. Every one of us are works in progress, even if that progress seemingly comes only in fits, starts, and restarts. And a lot of us fall into that category in one way or another, not necessarily in lustfulness but perhaps with gluttony, jealousy, or numerous other inner and outer wars. Traps exist for all of us, and for some they are lifelong struggles. Mine certainly has been longstanding to say the least.
Perhaps you are the person who watches the infomercial about the 300 LB woman who is now a sweet 120 and size 8. And, instead of being excited, you find yourself medicating your discouragement by going to the kitchen and getting some Ben and Jerry’s plus a spoon as you continue to watch the anorexic model on TV tell her tale. In my case perhaps it is a sense of utter loneliness that makes it easier to imagine being surrounded by beautiful and youthful folks who do not notice my many flaws. That is the power of pornography and cyber.
My point is this. Victory does not come in a one size fits all package. Some are delivered from certain of their sins instantly and never understand why that same deliverance does not occur with in the next person. Others fight a long battle but, once they are on the winning side for a few months or years, begin to lose compassion for those of us who keep messing up. And neither of those groups realize that very pride may lead them one day into something worse. I once knew of a young man who was instantly delivered from drug addiction, with no withdrawals of any kind. He fell in love with Jesus and his life was genuinely changed. I knew him personally and can attest to his sincerity. Yet, a few short years later he had an affair with a married woman from the church. The struggle within him was not gone but had only morphed into a new weakness. That story is scarily similar to many of us I think. The roots of our battles, the besetting ones at least, go deeply and at times lie dormant, waiting for the next way to become manifest. We do well to admit this to ourselves and others.
So yes, expect some honesty, some of it painful not just for you to read but me too, in what I pen going forward. When I posted on Face Book a few months ago that I had failed in chastity if not in person at least online, and that someone was possibly interested in quite literally exposing me due to what he rightly saw as my hypocrisy, I was overwhelmed with the response of probably friends, most Christian but even a few who were not, who gently supported me, as well as some who wrote me privately and admitted to their own struggles. Ironically a fellow Catholic writer was the only person who felt the need to tell me how deeply disappointed she was in me, and strangely that one response is the one I think about the most even still. The lesson I would gently say to that person if she is reading this is that most of us know our failures already, and do not need them to be thrust at us, especially if we have confessed them to God and the world already. Yes there are consequences as she deftly pointed out to me and I am willing to pay them as God sees fit. I took time totally away from writing precisely due to this situation during all of Lent and used much of that time to do some serious reflecting so that I could come back fresh and new after Resurrection Sunday. Instead I skipped Mass on Easter and did it all over again after a beautiful Holy Week. And my first thought after yet another such major failure was to never write again but to go into permanent hiding. Not so however. Not with the God of second chances who we love and serve.
Today I have been to confession and, yet again, I have been forgiven. And my penance this evening was to sit silently in the church sanctuary before the Blessed Sacrament and let God speak to me. That was it. Not 50 decades of anything. Just let God be God in me. In doing so, I came to believe that He does want me to write, and not just about this topic hopefully! But I have to do so with more humility and each time as a “wounded healer.” I do not have all of the answers yet, even for myself, and I will not guarantee to God or the reader that I will never slip into the abyss again either. But that was never my story anyway. Mine is one of Divine Mercy, and not only for the octave of Easter. God’s to me, and, very hopefully, mine to others who also are as flawed as I am. And that is many of us. Many of you.
So I am back. Humbled. Maybe even a bit humiliated. But real. And working on the underlying issues that make certain sins so attractive to me. God willing, perhaps I can help some of you do the same even while you help me too. Then perhaps the ugly sins I have committed can be somehow used for something good. And so can yours as well, if we just do not ever, ever give up. Blessed Easter.