"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Temptation Knocks

By Micky Wolf

There’s the old saying that when temptation knocks at the door, we need to send Jesus to answer it. Good counsel, yet not always the first thing we think to do.

We know grace is a huge part of being able to cooperate with God and make the loving choice at any moment. At the same time, my own experience has been we tend to cheapen grace on occasion by asking (hoping?) God will do for us what it is within the realm of our free will. Said another way—let’s not ask of God what is not His responsibility as He will never impose His will upon us.

Sitting here one day and pondering what was next on my to-do list, I had a suddenly-temptation-sin-moment. You know what I mean. You’re minding your own business and along come a thought or feeling which begs you to say yes.

“Do this,” it suggests. Sounds good. Even begins to tickle in your feeling realm.

“Not a big deal,” it continues.

Seems okay. What’s the harm?

“Take the bait—you will enjoy it.” Oh, yes. I’m almost convinced.

We are taught as Christians to take our thoughts captive and discern their source. The enemy of my human nature? Desires of the flesh? A quick opportunity to relieve boredom or stress? God-talk or devil-distraction?

Could be any or all of these things. Does it really matter?

Yes. And no.

I won’t kid you. A big part of me wanted to give in and go with the lure, the enticement to “do this.” No, don’t bother asking what the “do this” part was or we will both end up sinning.

The sin thing begins with the bait and the dance. Temptation arrives, often with a whisper, looking and sounding wonderful, a whole lot like the real deal. But it’s an imposter. If we succumb and take up this dance, staying until the end, we enter the darkness. Sin ends in death—every time we go for the bait, a little part of us withers and retreats from the gaze and protection of our One, True God.

On the other hand, the love thing usually means sacrificing a momentary pleasure in order to reap the more deeply fulfilling and lasting blessings that God promises us are the reward for being other-centered rather than self-centered.

For a few moments the “do this” was quite attractive. So much so, I came within a hair’s breadth of acquiescing to its’ allure. I didn’t. No, doesn’t make me some kind of spiritual super hero. Why? Because the occasions when I have given in to the “do this” invitation have occurred more often than I’d like to admit.

The solution? Acknowledging I want to—momentary pleasure is always fun—then recalling, with the help of the Spirit, the darkness that envelopes my heart almost immediately when I have said, “sure, why not. No big deal.”

Better that we throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of God to help us be courageous and strong when temptation comes knocking. There’s nothing like a few heavy duty sin hangovers to realize saying yes to the invitation, no matter how amazing it looks and sounds or well-attired in intellectual or sensory pleasure, is just that—momentary and self-centered.

Here’s the bottom line. We know the difference between the sin thing and the love thing—and on some level of interior awareness, we know when we hear a knock at the door of our hearts, we have one breath, a moment or two, to make a choice as to which direction we will go.

All of us sin—and we better not be in the business of counting (out loud or under our breath) when we think the other guy is ‘doing it’, or doing it bigger and worse than we are.

Instead, let’s recommit, as often as necessary, to turning away at the slightest knock that bears the allure to bite for the sake of immediate pleasure or personal gratification. Let us choose instead, to enter the dance with the One who will always be faithful to lead and guide us in Truth and Love.

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