The more I understand my failings and weaknesses, the more frustrated I get at my own sinfulness.
When I started to reclaim my faith over a decade ago, I had the naive assumption that once I had accurately acknowledged and faced my sinfulness, those sins would no longer be a challenge for me, as if my list of attractive sins could be simply erased.
Certainly, when I ask for forgiveness and receive absolution my ledger is cleared. But my attraction to those same sins never subsides.
And Satan knows this.
Every time we sin, we put it on the spiritual record for everyone to see. Every time we sin, whether it is something we’ve done before or something we’ve done for the first time, Satan knows. He makes note of it and inundates us with as many temptations as possible.
It is only through God’s grace that we can be shielded, protected from this onslaught.
This ongoing attraction to sin is one of the reasons Catholics believe in Purgatory because, in order to stand in God’s divine perfection, we too must be perfect. And we cannot expect to be perfect if we are sinful, or, more importantly, if we are still attracted to sin.
As I have grown in my faith, I have become more impatient with my failings. I am not alone. St. Paul talks about his frustration with doing things he knows he shouldn’t. I guess it’s part of the human condition.
But I had an idea.
Maybe if I could see sin as God does, as the awful offense that it is, I would be more inclined to avoid it. It’s hard to stop something when the consequences of it are not felt immediately (i.e., smoking, drinking, eating poorly).
So, I prayed frequently for God to give me insight into what sin feels like to him. Week after week after week I prayed.
Then one Sunday, in Mass, I prayed for it again, and I was immediately struck with such deep and massive sadness that I almost uncontrollably and openly burst into tears. The sadness was so intense and carried with it an expanse of emotion that I could barely contain it.
The entire moment lasted all of one second, but I was devastated.
Then, it got worse.
Then I heard God tell me “And those are only YOUR sins.”
That’s when I really started crying. I have caused that much pain? I have???? To my God? The one who created me? Who loves me unconditionally? Whose mercy is beyond my comprehension? Who nurtures me? Who is patient with me? Who puts up with my repeated acts of selfishness?
I did that?
Dear Lord, being the source of so much pain, how can you keep on forgiving me?
I do not deserve it.
I am not worthy.
But, God takes on the weight of our failings, of our selfishness, with all of its pain and anguish upon himself, and yet keeps his arms open, waiting for us to straighten our path.
That moment of insight changed me.
It has not made me perfect, for I still sin. But the weight of my actions are not lost on me. And it has brought me one small step closer to holiness.