I am currently reading the book, “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis De Sales for lent. I had some spiritual issues that sort of “made me” forget to read it (I chose to, but you get the idea) and I lost touch with the book. I “found” it again today. It’s interesting how God speaks to a person at times. I was sitting at my desk feeling sorry for myself, kind of getting on my own butt for not walking closely with Him. I started saying things like, “Ugh! How am I going to EVER get close to Him! I keep doing things, saying things, being interested in things that just don’t flipping matter!” and I heard that voice….not audible, I’m not crazy. I heard this in my heart, “All you need to do is do a spiritual workout Jason. You haven’t picked up any spiritual books for quite a while, you haven’t written in your journal or anything. Of COURSE you are messing up and sinning and struggling! Why wouldn’t you??”
So I did the most simple of things. I picked up my book and continued reading. Wow! What an amazing reading it was today! I’m on page 60 which is impressive for me because I stink at sticking with books. I am on my next devotional in the Devout Life book which is titled, The Fifth Meditation- On Death. What a way to jumpstart my spiritual walk!
He says, “Only one thing is certain: we will die and sooner than we think.” What?? What a way to speak to me. This is the biggest fear and unknown of my life: death. I don’t think about it hardly ever, I take it completely for granted, and I don’t enjoy thinking about it because I have no control over it, as one of my personal struggles is control. I just don’t know what to think about it as I sit here and read this meditation. I don’t want to think about it. I’m scared of death. Not so much HOW I die, but WHEN I will die. I want to grow old with my Wife. I want to retire from the Military in a few years and then travel in an RV with my family, keep renting our house, and go see the Country together. Can you just IMAGINE the closeness we will have if we did that? It could technically work if we got rid of all our debts, saved a few bucks and I got my pension, which would pay for the lease on the RV, and everything else IF we lived simply.
St Francis says that when we die, “devotion and good works will then seem sweet and desirable. Why did I not follow that lovely, pleasant path? Sins that once seemed so small will then appear as huge as mountains but your devotion very little.”
I am blown away by what this means for me! It is so true! NOTHING in this world matters when it all comes down to it. With that reminder, I immediately rethink all the things I deem important to me and see them as just rubbish! I see all the “beauty” around me in this world, especially in L.A. with all the swimsuits everywhere, the gorgeous people, lights, sounds, money flying around, all the self-centered selfishness going on around me. I have jumped headfirst into it before too, so I am NOT innocent by any means. It is difficult for me to be holy. I hate saying that but it is so true.
So after I have said goodbye to this world, after YOU have said goodbye, then what? Where will our souls go? Which way will it TRULY take? It will be none other than the one begun in this world, says St Francis De Sales.
I want to know for sure where I am going. Some say that the Catholic Church doesn’t “allow” for belief in the surety of salvation. That is a bunch of crap. To answer that though, takes a TRULY Catholic response. Since I returned to the church I have found there to be MANY nominal Catholics. I myself have been one and still am at times. Why does everyone pick on the Catholic Church so much and just DOG it? There are “nominal” people everywhere in every institution! In the Protestant church they abound, yet no one says anything about them, but when a Priest gets caught for sexual sin with little kids, the entire world erupts against them. Why is this? Why is anyone surprised when someone sins? Granted it is with someone who is supposed to be a leader, but it is still sin when it comes down to it.
Here is my point: Whether you are a Protestant Christian or a Catholic Christian, if you have faith in Jesus, AND you are currently living out that faith with good works, and you STRUGGLE against your sin, consider yourself on your way. It is NOT by good works that you are saved, it is NOT by faith that you are saved. Those two things MUST be together. James 2 is 100% crystal clear on this. Faith without works is dead. There is a difference between struggling against your sin, and willingly without care giving into your sin. I would rather be found in the first instance. No one is going to live a perfect life. It is impossible while you are still in this body. But to struggle against it, well, that is a different story. I hate my sin, sometimes I love it, but overall I hate it and I want to live a pure life. Most of all, I want to live a FULL life!
So what is my next step? What is your next step after reading this? St Francis lays out some resolutions for us.
Pray to God and cast yourself into his arms.
How do we do this? Force yourself (at first) to stop what you are doing and read and pray, even if it is for 10 minutes. Put yourself into His presence as much as possible. If you are struggling with something, such as being tempted to act out sexually after seeing some bikini magazines in the checkout at the store, invite Jesus into that situation! Ask Him to come into those thoughts. He will and then you’ll be thinking about something else that is good for you. This sometimes happens 50-60 times a day for me with various aspects of my life. I’ll be walking down the street or driving and see a gorgeous woman, and in the course of literally a few seconds, I give it to Jesus, invite Him into it, and in 2 seconds I am still noticing her beauty, because that’s not a lie, but then thanking God for beautiful people and the key is MOVING ON with my day and not staying in that thought.
Despise this world.
This doesn’t mean to hate the world. My Step-Mom told me once to be in the world but not of the world. I have also heard from another person in my past, that sometimes we are so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. I disagree with that. I think we should be all heavenly minded! We don’t need to hate the earth and everything in it, and to separate ourselves from it, and hole away in our house, but like St Francis says, we need to “no longer set our heart on you” (speaking of the world).
I don’t really get along with my extended family. I think that was partly me messing it up with all my changes in life and crazy things I got into and then tried to push on everyone, but I don’t have to get along with them! They don’t matter when it all comes down to it. I can choose, like St Francis says, “My dear friends, my dear relations, let me no longer love you except with a holy friendship that can last eternally. Why should I unite myself to you in such wise as to be forced to give up and break our union?” So true. It doesn’t mean to forget them unless they want to talk about Jesus, but it means I don’t need to spend so much time with them, being actively in their lives unless it is a friendship that can last eternally. If they live a life that is not like the one I am trying daily to live, I don’t need to be a part of theirs. It is okay to take care of me and my Wife and kids, stick to them, and not deal actively with anyone else except occasionally. I don’t need to feel bad if it has been 10 years since I have been home to see my Grandparents. It is sad because I had some very good years with them when I was young, and I miss those times. I miss them a LOT. There is nothing I can do about it though, those are distant memories and I must focus on what is MOST important.
Prepare myself for that hour.
If God told me, told you, that in 365 days you would die instantly and there is nothing you could do about it, how would you prepare for it? What would you do differently than you are doing now? I can think of a LIST of things I would do differently. All of a sudden things that were so important get thrown out of the window. I also wouldn’t just hole up and read my bible all day long. The most important thing we can do to prepare for our departure from this world is to do what St Francis says, “With all my power I wish to insure a proper state of conscience and to correct such and such defects” There it is. That is what it is all about.
Return thanks to God.
After you have arrived at this proper thinking, thank God for it. He gave this to you! Thank Him for his death and resurrection and salvation. Thank Mary for saying yes, pray and ask her to pray for you, as the saints to pray for you.
I want to continue fighting the good fight. Working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. Finish the race set before me in this life. I don’t always, in fact, I am dealing with issues spiritually as I write this! But I know that God is there and He wants me to get back up quickly from a fall, and to keep fighting, lest I fall and stay down and lose it all, for all eternity.