February 10, 2009
(Abba Isaiah) also said ‘When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels, not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.’
It strikes me every year as we pull out the Lenten Triodion on the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, marking the beginning of the Lenten season, how much rebellion, how much hopeless self-will I continually pursue. Being the unrepentant hedonist that I am, I continually complain and grumble over every little misfortune that comes my way, and yet, all too often I forget to bless and thank God for even the great things he has done for me (to say nothing of learning to actually thank Him for even my adversities). Like a petulant child, I spend large portions of the year neglecting Him, forgetting Him, and relegating Him to my often-unused prayer corner and Sunday mornings.
Picking up the Desert Fathers always makes me realize something else about myself, something else that I’d rather forget, ignore, and lock up in a box under my bed. Today, Abba Isaiah reminds me that it is God’s pity which sends misfortune and disaster upon the rebellious man, so that that man will suffer the pangs of desire for that which he ultimately does not want, so that he will come to himself, and realize that what he truly desires is God.
To come to one’s self is an important concept. The Gospel tells us that, while lying in the mud with the swine and coveting their food, the Prodigal Son “came to himself” and realized that he would be better off even as a servant in the house of his father. With the Sunday of the Prodigal coming up this weekend, reflecting on such an understanding of the suffering of rebellion takes on a much more poignant meaning to me. Have I come to myself? Or am I only dimly walking about in the shadows of death that permeate the world—that highlight the darkness of the world that I carry within me?
Lord, have mercy upon me, and show the light of Thy countenance upon me, revealing to me that which causes me to separate myself from Thee, that I may bring this brokenness and lay at Thy pierced feet. Amen.