Monday, December 11, 2006

from The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas a Kempis

On the Advantage of Not Having Everything Our Own Way

It is good that everything is not always to our liking; for adversity makes people look into their hearts in order to realize that they are exiles and must not put their hopes in any wordly thing.

It is good for us to run into opposition and have others think badly of us, even when our intentions are good. For these things help us to be humble and rid us of pride. Then we seek God more earnestly, Who alone knows our inmost self, when outwardly we are ignored and discredited by others.

2. Therefore, people should rely so entirely on God that they have no need to look for human consolations when adversity comes. When people of good disposition are afflicted or tempted or distracted by evil thoughts, then they understand the need they have of God and that without Him they can do nothing.

Then too they grieve, while they sigh and pray because of the miseries they endure. They grow weary of this life and long for death in order to be with Christ, their Lord. It will also be clear to them that there is neither perfect peace nor security in this world.

* * *

Advent is a good time for a little spiritual reading, and I have been enjoying The Imitation of Christ, which I got in Rome. Thomas a Kempis is a hard teacher, though. He might be better for someone in religious life. He says you should be detached from everything, speak no unnecessary words, avoid spending time with young or foolish people, and so forth, while I think that since my vocation is to be in the world, some of that advice might be a bad idea if I were to follow it. If I did half of what he suggests, I'd be much holier. If I did all of it, I might be Jansenist. Still, I would advise the book because it reminds me of my many shortcomings.

He's certainly spot-on in this chapter. I've often found that the only time I lose something I valued is when it is more important to me than God. It happens again and again: God gives me something, an object, a situation, a task, and I accept it because He gave it to me. Then I love it because it is God's will. Then I love it for itself. Then I start to focus on it and forget the One Who gave it to me. The next thing I know, it's gone because earthly things do go, and God is looking at me and asking, "Why are you so distressed? You didn't lose Me, the one thing you said was most important to you."

And that's when I have to learn that nothing is of any value apart from Him. I guess only adversity can teach me that.


Andreth said...

I just wanted to let you know that the 8 O'Clock Chaplet link on your sidebar is really disturbing, and that you should probably either update it fast, or delete it. I keep forgetting that your link isn't updated, and getting linked to a porn site. Not good.
Good post, by the way. :)

Sheila said...

Oh my goodness! Thanks!

Any delay about answering this is due to the fact that our computer filter saw a word it didn't like (hint: it begins with a "p" and rhymes with "corn") and wouldn't let me see the page. My mom finally took off the filter so I could read the comment -- and change the link. Those grand old people moved to a long time ago and I only just now got around to fixing it. Also, I had to remove Peeping Thomists because their address was taken over by something in Japanese. It's a shame that I never wrote down where their new blogs were. :(

Anyway, sorry to anyone who suffered that, and thanks to Andreth.