Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Do What He Wills; Leave Undone What He Wills Not

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

Abba Nisterus said that a monk ought to ask himself every night and every morning, “What have we done that is as God wills, and what have we left undone of that which he does not will?”

When I read that, I had to pause and say, “Huh?” Oh okay. Take it slow. I get in a hurry and think I know what they’re getting at. I suppose in some sense, it’s a re-wording of the idea of “all that I have done and all that I have failed to do” – sins of omission and commission.

“What have we done that is as God wills?” That’s easy enough, on the surface. Did we do our duty according to our state in life? That’s a start. Of course, God wills other things, and we don’t always accurately perceive God’s will. If we did, I supposed that would mean we were in Heaven. But at least by asking ourselves the question, we can pause at the beginning and end of each day to consider whether we might have missed doing something that truly was God’s will. Sins of omission, perhaps?

The second part seemed a little more obtuse to me at first: “What have we left undone of that which He does not will?”

In other words, I suppose, where did we stick our nose into God’s business where He had not invited us? Did I do something that was not God’s will? I suppose these would be sins of commission, but there’s more to it than that, I think. “Did I leave undone that which God wished not to be done?”  It seems like we can do things that are not God’s will, but which are not truly sins. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands, without giving a thought as to whether God would like to deal with the situation His own way, without our “help”.

I like the rest of the “saying”, too:

He must do this throughout his whole life. This is how Abba Arsenius used to live. Every day strive to come before God without sin. Pray to God in his presence, for he really is present. Do not impose rules on yourself; do not judge anyone. Swearing, making false oaths, lying, getting angry, insulting people laughing, all that is alien to monks, and he who is esteemed or exalted above that which he deserves suffers great harm.

Yes, that last part…yet don’t most of us (or maybe it’s just me) enjoy being judged more worthy than we really are? It’s flattering, isn’t it? Such a temptation! Pride, pride, pride…

As Abba Nilus is quoted in a previous section: “Happy is the monk who thinks he is the outcast of all.” That would be a much safer way! Well…unless one is proud of that distinction…

Traps are everywhere.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!

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