Barriers to Repentance 4/7
Slavery of the Mind
by Shery Abdelmalak
The human mind can be seen as a complex thing. By it, we move, live and have our being. Sound familiar? That description belongs to the Creator, not the creation. When I think of all the times I was stressed or upset or didn’t know what my next step was – it was because a negated God’s role in my life. I was doing so well on my own, but that does not last.
One of the devil’s greatest tricks to separate us from repentance is through the mind. It was the mind and human reasoning that convinced Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil that ultimately led to the fall of mankind.
Like most sin, sins of the mind start slow, small distractions during the mass, during prayer – an inability to concentrate. At this point, you will not feel separated from the Father and thus, will not feel the need to fight seemingly innocent thoughts. The very battle you fight to focus on God in prayer while life is going well will be the reason you hold your peace when times get tough, and they always do. Over time, the trust you place in yourself grows and although you might not notice, your priorities are shifted and He is no longer your main aim. The same life that has built up your ego has now knocked you down and you are left to pick up the pieces. The entrapment of the mind is a slow yet seemingly endless cycle of abuse, as you fall further away from Christ and His ability to deliver you from all evil. The doubt, the shame and all the tricks in between that the devil plays have convinced you that He will never take you back.
How could you forget how much He loves you? You’re His masterpiece. His finest work of art. One of His favourites. He has blessed you with so much yet these blessings seem hard to see through the storm. God’s biggest blessings come from our biggest mistakes. You don’t see it now but you will when it is all over. Alleviating your pain is not His aim. He wants to bless you, and to bless you abundantly. You are His child.
He is always anticipating your return. Don’t look to overcome your sin before you return to Him. Stop trying to reason your way out. If you think for long enough maybe you’ll find a solution, but you will more than likely fall further into confusion and shame. Look up, look to Him. Look at all He is. Stop looking back on your sin and look to who He can make you. You will never understand how He forgives but this is not for your understanding. Thomas Kempis says, “The humble person, though he suffer confusion, is yet tolerably well in peace; for that he rests on God, and not on the world.”God gave you a living and reasoning soul for His glory, but when it is misused, confusion takes hold and peace is lost.
While in a state of confusion and sadness, a common misconception of repentance is that it will only enhance these ill-feelings. This could not be further from the truth. If you are looking at your mistakes with self-pity, with sorrow, with guilt, with shame – this is not repentance. This is a fall further into slavery.
If we take the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7:41-43) and tweak it to show a debtor that was entrapped in guilt and shame, we can see how unlike repentance this path really is. In the parable, he left thankful, knowing that although he could not repay his debt, his slate had been wiped clean. To approach repentance with guilt and shame would be the equivalent of the debtor returning to the creditor just to apologise once more for his failure to repay his debt…
Creditor, “are you here to repay me?”
Debtor, “No, I’m just here to tell you how sorry I am that I can’t repay you, again”
“It’s okay, it’s already forgiven”
“No but you don’t understand. I’m really sorry”
This would lead to a frustrated creditor and a self-pitying and shameful debtor. We, as debtors, need to overcome the tricks of the devil and accept the beauty of God’s gift of grace to us that is salvation.
This can be so difficult to see if you are in state of slavery of the mind where confusion is paramount and problems seem endless. You are finally realising your sins and your weakness but do not be disheartened. You can never separate the creation from the Creator. Those weaknesses that cause you to fall into sin can be strengths when turned over to the Creator. Do not insult His creation but trying to redeem yourself on your own. As Mother Teresa says, “If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own power. Your self-sufficiency, your selfishness, and your intellectual pride will inhibit His coming to live in your heart because God cannot fill what is already full. It is as simple as that.”
Empty yourself of the thoughts that control you and be clothed with His blessings. HH Pope Shenouda III says the thoughts that control us are like flies. Shoo them away. Not every thought that comes to mind deserves contemplation. A thought turns into a feeling that turns into an action. If you knew the end result of a simple thought, it is unlikely that you would allow yourself to dwell on it. This however, comes with discipline and may become a life long struggle of faith.
Pray until you can’t pray anymore. Wrestle God in prayer like Jacob until the thoughts flee from you. Pray until you can recite the psalms in your sleep, like HH Pope Kyrillos VI. Pray with your whole body through prostrations so that you deny your entire being over to the mighty Hands of God. Pray to stir the unutterable groaning of the Holy Spirit to intercede for you and pull you out of the storm you are in. Glory be to our Almighty Creator forevermore.