By Carolyn Shields
You know the one. It has a name. Sometimes its hold on us is so strong that even saying it feels impossible. It’s hidden in the confessional at the end of that fallen litany when we add, “and for any other sins I have committed…”
Fr. Michael Gaitley writes (and I can attest to this) that so often, just saying whatever it is we are struggling with out loud is sometimes all it takes to break its eery spell. At least temporarily, because soon we find ourselves back in the confessional, giving it a different name (“Maybe it’s not actually that…”) or tossing it into that final phrase again.
But this one cuts you deep, doesn’t it? It can make you cry frustrated tears just about every freaking time we fall to it. It’s like a siren that suddenly goes off in your head blaring the miles you just fell from the Lord. It' makes you despair, hurt, confused, angry…
And God willing, it makes you run to Him. To cast yourself on your knees before Him to remind you who you are and what you are capable of without His grace. And God willing, He reminds you that you are more than that one choice.
I fall into that camp of someone who can forgive others in a heartbeat, but when it comes to myself it’s a drastically different story. God can forgive me, but can I forgive myself?
You see, when we face that one sin, it’s so easy to get so wrapped up in its aftermath that we give it almost more worth than it’s due. To be sure, it’s wrong and dangerous and our tears are usually justified, but at least for me, I not only beat myself up over it into a pulp, but I also allow it to become a blazing floodlight that creates blindspots in my soul.
So I beg God to help me not let this sin consume me and make me neglect to see the other venial sins I face every day. I don’t want to chalk up my entire spiritual progress into one sin, into one poor decision. I don’t want one sin to distract me from the others I don’t even know I’m making. I don’t want one sin to tell me who I am.
So when we are fallen, and not because of something out of our control but because of an ugly choice, let’s pray for the courage to name it and to come before God, knowing that His grace and its work in our lives is so much greater than something that may temporarily rub your raw.
To end in the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, “A saint is a sinner who keeps trying.”