Recently, I read a novel for the first time in decades. I have always found it difficult to discipline my thoughts enough to stay focused on a single book for 400 pages, or even 10, but I did it this time. A talented and precious religious sister recommended it to me. Coming from this particular nun and believing there was a message to be found in the reading, how could I resist reading it to its completion?
The story followed a man’s life from early childhood to a peaceful death. It was about Heaven. As I read it, I was reminded of how this nun brought back an early childhood memory for me. You see, she reminds me of a little girl with whom I had an infatuation when I was in the 1st grade. It was my first ever infatuation like that – where a boy looks at a girl’s pretty face and knows that he wants to be closer to her; it was one of those situations where a little boy has feelings and has no idea how to express them.
Unfortunately for me, there seemed to have been a mass awakening of similar feelings by other boys in my class because it seemed that everyone of them wanted to show their affection to her as they went back into the classroom after playing outside. She was holding open the classroom door as we entered, and in competition for her love, several of the boys were kissing her on her right cheek – big slobbery kisses – as they re-entered the classroom. I think she knew she had some kind of power over us, and maybe she didn’t quite understand or know what to do about the situation.
As I approached her, I started regretting the whole situation – firstly that I, having not been noticed by her, would have to compete for her heart; secondly, it certainly would be awkward to try to kiss her after not ever having said one word to her; thirdly, I would have to kiss her slobbery face after all the other 1st grade boys made their attempt to woo her – yuck! Well, I made an attempt to kiss her, but I don’t think I quite did; I think she drew away her face (embarrassing for me, of course).
I have always remembered her and had just a tiny wound in my heart because I didn’t quite measure up, and I could not have her as my girlfriend. I wonder how that has affected my personality over all of these years. Well, I’m certainly blessed to have my wife.
Anyway, it was a great book with an intriguing story. I completed it over a 2 week period. Now, I will state that it caused me to reflect on some of my own sinful inclinations in addition to my own trials and tribulations in life. You know, we sometimes are tempted by the perfection we desire but don’t have, and so we might be tempted to covet things and people and situations which, by our own vows, we should not. Those thoughts were coming to the surface, and it was a battle to keep them under control – like I was under spiritual assault. But, I kept reading and struggling.
I suppose it might have been like when Jesus went into the desert for 40 days and gave up the protection of the Spirit that He might have to struggle under temptation and show that He could win nevertheless. The struggle was real because, when I am struggling with serious temptation, my heart physically hurts – and it was hurting. It’s like Jesus is undergoing His Passion, except that it is happening in some way in my own heart. I don’t wish any pain on Him, but that’s what I think about. Of course, I was moved to undergo a thorough examination of conscience after reading the book, and I decided, yesterday, that I had sufficiently kept myself from falling into a mortal snare. The good thing is that the Spirit sort of convinced me to trust Him that I did nothing wrong in how my mind wondered out from and back to the Path.
Last night, I had a related nightmare. I can’t really recall the full set of circumstances, but I do know it involved me grabbing and throwing a deadly, colorfully-ringed snake, like Satan, away from me, watching it quickly coil for a strike, and then me scrambling to avoid it’s bites. It extended its body fully toward my feet and flared it’s venom pouches in readiness for a deadly strike, but it could move no closer to me. It was at my feet on the ground, which was all white, and extended its body toward me but fell short. I thought of smashing its head, but then I woke up. I’m not sure I would have actually smashed its head; it seemed too pitiful.
At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass this morning, after the Liturgy of the Word, and not long into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I began to hear the Lord speak to me. He said:
“You know me.”
There were other words, too. Of course, as I’m sitting there in my natural anxiety, I’m thinking this is the Lord judging me. Right? I know Him? Does that mean that I know that He was hurting in my heart? Or, does it mean that because I know that, I can regret it and do whatever I can to console Him and prevent Him anymore pain? This must be the pain of True Love which the Lord always endures. Yet, how do we stop it and console the Lord? How do we return love and care like a soothing salve on a festering wound? That’s what I want to do.
“You know me.”
I know He loves me, and I can do nothing without Him. But, I can choose to love Him, and I try and am able the more closely I succumb to his virtuous, meek and humble Way.