Facing Reality (Barriers to Repentance)

Barriers to Repentance 7/7

Facing Reality

by Shery Abdelmalak

If I am accountable to my own standards then I am righteous in my own eyes. Where was this logic adhered to? Judges – a time of utter chaos. By accepting this logic, we choose internal chaos over the healing of repentance, since our sins must first be brought to light before we can be healed.

Humans are creatures of habit and of routine. Change is a scary thing for us all. Sometimes we even prefer to accept our sins than to overcome them. We choose to remain in our human states than to pursue the heavenly. We choose to be waves of the ocean, tossed back and forth, lacking stability and a firm foundation. We must look to be righteous in God’s eyes, and pursuing His standards and not our own.

“I can’t repent because I don’t remember my sins”

Pray to remember. We are held to our own standards and it is our duty to expose our sins for the purposes of overcoming them. To him who knows good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). We are not called to live an indifferent life. We are called to sanctification. If those around you do not see a difference between you and others, then something is wrong. Pray for your weaknesses and your sins to be revealed to you. Something as simple as eating a meal would cause tears of repentance in Abba Isidore. He says,“I am ashamed of myself because, being a rational being, I eat the food of an irrational creature; I desire to live in Paradise where I shall enjoy the food that is imperishable.”Abba Isidore knew that there was always something higher than him and repented for things that none of us would classify as sin.

“Spiritual life is too hard. Why do I have to give up so many of things that I love?”

Don’t go looking for weaknesses without first arming yourself with Christ. HH Pope Shenouda III says, “You reveal your weaknesses to obtain power from him. You reveal with regret all your sins, then He will grant you Absolution and forgiveness.” You are choosing to fight a losing battle if you do it alone. If this is the case, then your reluctance is a given. Arm yourself with Christ. Empty yourself and you will be filled with all strength and knowledge to withstand the wiles of the devil.

“But I know myself. I know how God made me. I can’t change that.”

If this does not implore you to repentance then how could you truly know yourself? If you knew yourself, you would recognise your worth can only come from the One that dwells within. Delve deeper and see your true self. It makes no sense by human logic that looking for flaws could be joyful but God doesn’t play by our rules. In Him, our weaknesses are turned into perfect strength.

A monk once asked the Abbot of the monastery to pray for him as he was struggling to overcome the devil. The abbot then spoke to the devil about this monk…

“Please go easy on this servant. He is struggling greatly with the temptations you have you put before him.”

“Who? I haven’t been anywhere near him.”

There are two keys things to note from this interaction.

  1. The monk that claimed he was fighting against the devil was really fighting his own will.
  2. The abbot of the monastery was in communication with the devil. He had a relationship with the devil.

The fight against the devil will only commence when we fight against our own wills and desires. Otherwise, the devil will not waste his time on you. The true tragedy in our spiritual lives is when the devil makes no effort to fight us at all. Only when our weaknesses and sins are given over to God in true repentance, will the devil ever validate our spirituality by giving us any form of challenge in temptation.

To have a relationship with God is one thing, to have a relationship with the devil is a whole new level. When the Jews saw the works of St Paul and St Peter that even their handkerchiefs and aprons were enough to heal the sick and exorcize evil spirits, they began to imitate their actions.

“We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!”

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”  The devils answered, before overpowering them and prevailing against them so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded (Acts 19:15).

The devil will only make himself known to those who fight in repentance to be near to our God.

St Athanasius recounts the struggles St Anthony faced during his time in the desert;

“Straightaway phantasms of this kind caused a phantom earthquake, and they tore apart the four corners of the house, and entered into it in a body from all sides. One had the form of a lion, another had the appearance of a wolf, another was like a panther, and all the others were in the forms of serpents, vipers, and scorpions. The lion was roaring as a lion roars when he is about to slay; the bull was ready to gore him with his horns; the panther was prepared to spring upon him; and the snakes the vipers were hissing.”

Reading this, knowing would be more than enough to scare anyone away from a life of spiritual struggle. Not for the one that is filled with Christ. At this moment, he laughed. St Athanasius continues, “The blessed man Anthony was not disturbed by their commotion, and his mind remained wholly undisturbed”

St Anthony was filled completely with Christ, even to the very cells that comprised his being. He was not his own. He belonged wholly and completely to Christ. He had the authority of Christ trample under foot serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy.

The devil doesn’t fight fair. Lucky for us, neither does God. For while we were still sinners, He died upon the Cross for our salvation (Romans 5:8). How could routine ever compare to a life with Christ? Let us pray to overcome routine and face the reality of our weaknesses so that Christ may dwell in our hearts and minds. Glory be to God forever, Amen.

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