Overcoming My Mistakes: 99% God vs1% Me
My Spiritual Director and I love to hash out a metaphor for the spiritual life. She was telling me that when she was in grad school, her professor walked into the room and drew a huge “99%” on the white board. Then a small “1%.” She proceed to explain that in trying to overcome our mistakes and weaknesses, we must remember that it is 99% God, and only 1% us. We tend to believe that our holiness is in our own hands, made by what we do and do not do, and how much strength we can successfully muster to earn or make for God.
I countered the statement with “Yes, but aren’t we the driver of our own “vehicle?” I mean, somebody has to make the car go from here to there…you know, to the next destination.” My SD countered with “I would say you may have to get from here to there, but YOU are not the driver. God is driving the car.” I thought for a moment. “I think I am more like a Tesla,” I continued. “I am cooperative with where the car needs to go, even choosing the route at times, but God is really the one in charge of the wheel, because I ask Him to be every morning in my morning offering.” We both had a good laugh over that. Although a Tesla may not drive exactly 99% for the one riding in the car, she got the idea and said “I feel you have a blog coming on.”
Can I Earn Holiness Through Self-Discipline?
In a recent Encounter With Christ, we discussed to what extent and in what ways we “accomplish” holiness, but doing so by relying on God’s grace. Every week we end our Encounter by forming a way to act and pray that helps us practice a certain virtue. We felt that self-discipline is a factor in our sanctity for sure, but we must be careful with the snare that is waiting there for us.
Anyone who has studied to be a professional ballerina or an athlete can tell you that self-discipline can be very addictive and self-satisfying, until something goes wrong. We are tempted to see results and praise our own hard work for each accomplishment. “What’s wrong with that?!” asked our culture, indignantly.
Whereas hard work is a good thing and self-discipline can be virtuous, we have to remember Who gets us out of bed each morning–and I don’t mean Mary J. Blige singing “No More Drama in My Life” on my phone alarm. God is the author of life. I can’t work hard toward something if I didn’t have the lungs, brain, and heart all doing their own part. In other words, He gives me the day to live, and the mercies that go with it, and even the strength and motivation to try again. The danger of exacting an extraordinary amount of self-discipline is that I am tempted to the attitude that I am the source of my own strength, and that simply isn’t true.
“Be careful to give no credit to yourself for anything; if you do, you are stealing from God, to whom alone every good thing is due.St Vincent de Paul
The beauty of it all, is that I can still cooperate with God in the outcomes of my efforts and whether I succeed or not, the effort is never wasted. He permits us to work with Him, no matter how off-base we can get. Mostly, I gain a greater unity with God when I practice self-denial (fasting) for the right reasons, and remain close to Him in prayer. I just need to constantly check my motivation so that it is to serve Him, not myself. And when you do, get ready for a fight. For example, I can’t tell you how easy it is for me to do intermittent fasting, but the second I try to put a spiritual fast behind the effort, I am faced with a great deal of spiritual resistance. (must. eat. cookie.)
The Right Mindset for Charity: Permitting Myself and Others to Fumble
In addition to remembering that I am not actually the driver of my own vehicle, I must also exercise great charity in letting others come to understand this too. We had a women’s retreat last weekend although I could not attend, my friends shared these gems with me, regarding charity with others. Some of them relate to parenting, but you can stick the wisdom to dealing with all relationships as to “taking our hands off the wheel” a bit:
We as parents weren’t meant to be puppeteers. We weren’t meant to hold the strings of our children’s actions. God doesn’t do that to us. He gives us the freedom to make our mistakes. He also did not intend for us to carry the burden of carrying everyone else’s mistakes.
We aren’t called to be successful. We are called to be faithful. In life and in our work, the Lord isn’t counting the outcome. He is wanting us to stay to close to
God Let’s Me Mess Up
Recently for our study book, we read and discussed Emily Stimpson Chapman’s book “Letters To Myself From the End of the World.” One of my favorite ideas in the book is the fact that we so often try to control others, and we are angry and disappointed by the words or behaviors of others. But God in His mercy does not control us. He permits us to go fumbling about, loving us just as much as when we honor Him, and perhaps even more because we depend on Him for his mercy and grace.
Charity is to be STRENGTH for Others
Archbishop Alexander Sample recently posted a beautifully written article in the National Catholic Register entitled “Mothers: See Yourself as Jesus Sees You”.
I don’t know if he wrote this article before someone leaked information about the Roe V Wade overturn possibility, but I found the words he chose to be timely.
Take a look at Proverbs 31:10-31. That section is a luminous little poem about the qualities of an amazing wife and mother. It’s said that nothing in ancient literature equals this poem’s testament to the dignity and individuality of woman. Pope St. John Paul II called out something really important from the poem: the unique dignity a woman receives from God himself is an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people. Strength for other people.
The Gospel, Charity and The Driver
As we reflect on this gospel, John 13:31-35, in which Jesus gives us the new commandment, to love one another, let us be reminded that in order to give hope back to the world we must remember that those who are hurting and lashing out in anger and destruction are wounded. We must ask God for His grace and mercy so we can be a source of strength and mercy for those who have may have experienced horrific ordeals and personal traumas.
How many times have I been so certain that I was right in my thinking–that I had set the perfect course for my own vehicle–only to later look back and realized it didn’t matter. Maybe I arrived at my destination, but did I hurt people on the way? If so, I was not acting out of compassion or love. Real charity wills the good of the other. This should be our motivation every day. If I am so worried about setting course for the most direct path for the next goal, and I forget to use charity and kindness, it won’t matter if I have arrived. I missed the point of taking the trip. If I am too direct, I can hurt or wound others and the point will be moot. No one wants to listen to an angry person. If we want to be heard, we must ask God for help to be gentle and kind, maybe even using the “no highways” setting on our vehicle, and instead taking the gentler, scenic route where we appreciate the journey a little more.
As we let the Tesla take us to the next destination, make sure the course is set to the Divine Will and be at peace in your 1%. I don’t know the big picture and all the factors that go into the way people act, but I do know that God does, and I am sure glad HE is the 99%.