For the longest time now, I have thought of God like a leader of an elite military unit, or the director of an elite ballet company. The key word here is ‘elite.’ People who belong to this military unit or ballet company are expected to be better than other people. If they are not, then God doesn’t have time to spare for them. They must be kicked out of His elite group.
This sort of thinking inevitably led to incorrect views about myself and other people. I thought of myself as elite, as more perfect than others, e.g. non-practicing Catholics, non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians and non-believers. As someone who is stronger and more talented, I am sent to save these people from their folly; but, I believed, I must remain perfect or else I will be booted out of this elite force. Everything I have experienced so far – sin, confession, learning how to pray, etc. – was only part of my training to ensure complete perfection.
Looking back at my pre-conversion blog posts, I have a tendency to think in terms of greatness. I seek perfection and I would like to remain perfect. During my college days when I fell in love with the ancient Greek philosophers, I fell in love with their ideas of human perfection and their struggles to remain so. The aristocrats are such because they are not like the base lower classes, and they must maintain that sort of stature or else they lose their essence.
Such an attitude can easily make me fall into vanity. Oh sure, I acknowledge God’s help in making me perfect, but I use it as proof of my superiority. Oh look at me! I have more colorful feathers than you other peacocks!
What a load of crap! I am such an idiot. For all my ideas of perfection, I am still plagued by the temptation to sin; and indeed I did sin – not just venial sin but mortal sin.
I wouldn’t have been horrified by what I had done if I had not told God a few months ago to take away His promises if ever I become less than perfect, i.e. commit mortal sin. After realizing what I had done, I got mad at God and said to Him:
‘Never mind! I don’t care! Take it all away and leave me to my misery! I don’t care how much work I had done in the past and how much progress I had made. Take it all away! Let me live now in sin and I won’t care about any of this ‘religion stuff’ from now on!’
Later, when I realized that my life’s fulfillment was at stake, I got even madder and asked:
‘Why did You make me promise if You knew I was going to break that promise? If you are God and know everything, even those that will happen in the future, then You should have stopped me from making that promise … unless You don’t want me to be happy in the first place!’
And on and on my ranting went. I cried, I got angry, and I cried again.
Then gradually I realized that the Sacrament of Confession will wash away my sins. This simple act which only takes less than 5 minutes is enough to make me completely clean again.
And I also remembered Peter who denied Jesus 3 times even if he earlier promised he would do no such thing. Despite his sins, Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter.
As I said, I am an idiot because although God is someone who demands perfection, He will not turn His back to us if ever we fall short. We will always fall short, again and again. Even if we have already conquered the small temptations, the Devil will bring us bigger temptations. The stronger we are against sin, the stronger future temptations will be.
Catholics believe that God allows evil because He can bring good out of it, perhaps a good that would not otherwise happen if the evil did not happen first. Again and again I see this happen in my life.
Every Catholic knows that we don’t deserve God’s love, but sometimes we don’t understand what this means, or perhaps we forget. The day I got mad at God, He reminded me of this very important fact: I am a sinner, and I will always succumb to sin no matter how perfect I strive to be. For this I do not deserve God’s love, but it doesn’t matter because He will always love me no matter what. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continuously strive to be perfect. It only means that if I fail – and I will sooner or later – it’s ok. I only need to go to Confession and I can begin anew again.
I also learned another important lesson: I used to think that I deserve all of God’s promises to me because I try my hardest to be perfect. In being perfect, I thought I could prove to God that I deserve His love, and that’s why He must give me His love. The truth is I don’t deserve anything. He will give me what He chooses to give me because it will be for my fulfillment, or because it will allow me to become the person He wants me to become. Thus, if God chooses to give me what I ask from Him, I will value them more because I don’t deserve them.
The day I got mad at God led to the day I fell even more deeply in love with God. How can I possibly not be in awe and not be moved by this love which gives and gives and asks for nothing in return? For that is what true love is, isn’t it?