When the Lord told his Apostles to forgive 70 times 7 I think he had me in mind. It seems like I am constantly falling into the same sins only to be asking for forgiveness and help to change. One thing that I have learned in my falling is that no matter how promising the sins might be I am not fully able to be comfortable practicing them. For even in the depths of my sins the Lord is there bringing a sobering reality that I lack his peace and is always offering me a way to escape. I am ashamed to say that there have been times that it has taken me a great deal of time to yield to the reality of his presence. On the other hand, I am grateful for the constant demonstration of how much he loves his children.
I found myself in a place that I knew I shouldn’t have been at. At this place there was this person who identified themselves as a Christian. Being ashamed I couldn’t not do the same thing and asked him how he could justify being where he was. He started talking like he was reading out of a theological manual and his response amounted to that as long as he speaks about Christ he can do just about anything. His response reminded me of something Metropolitan Hierotheos once said concerning modern spirituality. The metropolitan said that its naïve to think that intellectual knowledge about God can save you. To me this naivety was looking me right in the face showing me what kind of hypocrite I was being at the time. For the place I found myself in might not intellectually compromise a personal belief in Christ but it did compromise the possibility of growing in the spiritual experience of him.
There was a time in my life when I might not have seen my sinfulness in the same way. However, the Byzantine tradition is uncompromising when it comes to a life that does not strive to develop intimacy with God in all things. The tradition is very clear when it sheds light on such a life and calls it what it is "sin". It is possible to find God in all things but when we look for some other comfort as we often do we find ourselves falling short of our destiny. This can be overwhelming if we ponder the consequences but our tradition also tempers this reality with the understanding of God's mercy, patience, and continual desire for us to know him.
Looking into our tradition, the ultimate goal we have to constantly adjust ourselves to is total freedom from the enslavement of the fallen world so that we can truly experience God. As it says in many ways in the Philokalia God "yearns" and "hungers" for our freedom to know his presence(V2. Pg82). Unfortunately, as I have shared I have not been very successful in realizing the goals of our spirituality. On the other hand, I have learned something just as essential that being that God does not give up on us no matter how many times we fail. For this reason I feel an even greater obligation to not give up.
I have screwed up too many times and ruined my testimony on many occasions. Never the less, I hope to embrace my God in the end. He has shown me that if I fall hard it pleases him that I get back up and keep trying. I hope one day to be free from failures because they keep me from more of him. Sometimes it feels like I'm no different than the Israelites who were subjected to a life in the wilderness because of their sins. On the other hand, even to those in the wilderness the scripture reveals something very comforting about God. It says, "During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.( Deuteronomy 29:5 NIV)".To me this says God never forsakes his children no matter how bad they have blown it.
If perhaps you find yourself in similar circumstances that I have found myself in, please don’t give up. Understand that God only wants us to stop our sin because he wants to give us something better. It might not be easy to give up your sin. However, even if it’s a struggle that you will face to your death, keep trying. There will always be consequences for choosing to sin but one consequence that we will never face is that God will give up on us. For as he also said to those in the wilderness, "For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon,(Deuteronomy 4:31NIV)."God will never give up on you so don’t give up on trying to love him.