The Unholy Double Standard

I think anyone who is diligently pursuing the spiritual life of repentance knows the frustration of losing the battle to sin on a daily basis.  Many of us have habitual sins that we cannot seem to break.  We fall into sin, we feel dirty and unworthy, we ask God to forgive us, and then we get up and try again.

However, if we are to be honest, many of us sometimes feel at least a hint of hopelessness.   We wonder if God really wants to take us back.  If we’re constantly falling into the same sin over and over, will God justly become angry with us and refuse to accept our repentance?

The devil would sure like for us to lose hope.  But here is the double standard: when repenting of a sin, and then being tempted to fall into it again, I have never said to myself, “No, I might as well give up on sinning.  After repenting so many times, I don’t think the Devil will take me back.” Continue reading The Unholy Double Standard

Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

St-Theophan-Recluse-pravoslavie“Self-pity is the root of all our stumblings into sin. He who does not indulge himself is always steadfast in good.” – St. Theophan the Recluse

I recently experienced the death of a friend. During that time I realized one of the keys between healthy grieving and sinful despair is the focus of our thoughts. When I began dwelling upon, “I’ll never get to see her again,” or “She’ll never be able to make me laugh again like she used to,” I found it was quite easy to slip into despair. Continue reading Self-Pity: A Quiet Snare

On Refuge from Sinful Thoughts

castle_by_netdogThere was in a certain place a beautiful woman of questionable behavior. The ruler of this country took pity on her, that such beauty would perish, and, when he found the opportunity, he said to her, “Give up your immoral ways, and I will take you to my house and you will become my wife and the mistress of many treasures. Just watch that you are faithful, or else there will be such trouble for you as you cannot even imagine.”
She agreed to this, and was taken to the ruler’s house. Her former friends, seeing that she had disappeared, began searching for her, and found out that she was with the ruler.
Although the ruler was a terror, they did not despair of enticing the beautiful woman back to themselves once again, knowing her weakness. “We have only to go up behind the house and whistle; she will know who it is and immediately run out to us.”
That is just what they did.
They went behind the house and whistled. The beautiful woman, hearing the whistle, started. Something from her previous life stirred inside of her. But she had already come to her senses, and instead of running out of the house, she rushed into the inner chambers to the ruler himself, and immediately calmed down; she did not even hear the whistling that continued outside.
Her friends whistled a few more times and went off with nothing.
The meaning of the parable is clear. The beautiful woman represents the fallen soul that has turned to the Lord in repentance and made a contract to belong to and serve Him alone. The former friends are the passions. Their whistling is the impulses of passionate thoughts, feeling, and desires. Escape into the inner chambers is shelter in the depths of the heart, there to stand before the Lord.
When this is accomplished within, the passion that has troubled the soul leaves of its own accord as if it had never existed, and the soul calms down.

-=-From The Spiritual Life and How to Be Attuned to It. A parable by St. John the Dwarf adapted by St. Theophan the Recluse.

Continue reading On Refuge from Sinful Thoughts

Sorrow and Fasting

monk feeding pigeonsThe biblical authors were no strangers to sorrow, and most of us in this life carry or have carried some form of sorrow in our hearts. Speaking of sorrow, the Apostle Paul writes, “For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly sorrow produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10).

There are two types of sorrow: worldly and godly. But what is the difference?

Worldly sorrows have a multitude of sources including: Continue reading Sorrow and Fasting

Abiding in Christ

transfiguration of Christ - stained glass - orthodox-smallCome…let us be transformed this day into a better state and direct our minds to heavenly things, being shaped anew in piety according to the form of Christ. For in His mercy the Savior of our souls has transfigured disfigured man and made him shine with light upon Mount Tabor. [1]

In my last post, I attempted to emphasize the need for us to look exclusively to God as our source of love and fulfillment. Regarding the “Five Love Languages,” they are fine practices for us to edify others, but we should never expect anything in return.

That is a hard teaching, especially when society tells us the root of our problems is that we don’t love ourselves enough, which is completely wrong because truthfully we love our flesh entirely too much. Continue reading Abiding in Christ

A Critique of the Five Love Languages

love_by_jpdeanFrom my teenage years until recent times, I firmly believed that all people had their needs for love fulfilled in five different ways, as outlined in the best seller by Dr. Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages.

Now that I have been exposed to Orthodox theology and have come to know my own heart more deeply, I feel that Dr. Chapman’s book needs a critique.

As outlined by Dr. Chapman, there are five ways in which people give and receive love.  When someone in a relationship feels unloved, it may be because their significant other is not “speaking” their “love language.”  The five are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Receiving Gifts
3. Acts of Service
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch Continue reading A Critique of the Five Love Languages

The Awakening: Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome

beauty_and_the_beast_by_austh-smSome people have criticized the classic Disney movie Beauty and The Beast due to its romantic display of Stockholm Syndrome, which is a phenomenon in which someone held captive develops an emotional attachment and loyalty to his or her captor. While the Disney film makes the beast reform his ways and repent, what if the story took a different direction? What if he remained a ravaging beast and she still fell in love with him?

What if we all have Stockholm Syndrome? What if our culture and our flesh are our beastly captors, and being raised by them and in them has caused us to sympathize with our captors?

What would freedom look like, perhaps a body that is in submission to the soul? Continue reading The Awakening: Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome