Lie: I Cannot Be a Saint
I recently had an interesting discussion with a group of people about the way we are best motivated. One person shared the example of a workout class instructor. Some people need the instructor who yells out the mile markers and pushes you to go further. Others need the gentle voice that encourages you to do your best and reminds you that it’s not about perfection, but progress.
In the spiritual life, I think we need a little bit of both. I recently began reading (okay, I’ve been slowly making my way through it for months) 'Searching for and Maintaining Peace' by Fr. Jacques Philippe and he offers a pretty blunt and necessary statement: “…nothing cools love quite like resigning to mediocrity (this resignation is, by the way, a lack of confidence in God and His ability to sanctify us” (God Can Draw Good Even From Our Faults, 61-62). I was not made for mediocrity.
Look back and remember all of the ways God has been a miracle worker and has saved you from a troubled path and shown you the right way. How can you choose to believe that God cannot possibly sanctify you? But, in reality, I’m afraid of what that looks like. I believe that I simply cannot qualify because all I see are my own weaknesses and failures. I am tempted to compare my upbringing, circumstances, and accomplishments to others as a way of measuring sanctity and the lie begins to creep in. The lie is that I am not capable of becoming a saint—but I know that God is capable of changing that within me. To believe that my current state in life renders me incapable of living a radical life for Christ is to believe that I am still a slave and that I have not been adopted as a beloved child of God.
Many Sundays, I sit in Mass in my little wooden pew and let the truth of the readings wash over me and I recommit myself, right then and there, to let every fiber of my being praise the Lord as a new week begins. It is an authentic desire but in my humanity, as the week goes on, exhaustion and distractions distance me from Jesus and the commitment I so greatly wanted to offer Him on that Sunday morning. And the lie creeps in again: “Maybe this whole sainthood thing was made for someone else, but not for me.” But here’s the thing: Satan doesn’t win.
As soon as I believe that God is incapable of sanctifying me, I fail to rely on Him. I sit in my mediocrity, believing that I am imprisoned and that freedom is not possible. It narrows my trust in God. It increases the darkness. I forget that there is a world beyond the prison cell. It supposes a scarcity mentality that God does not have enough to offer me and that He could not possibly fulfill all of His promises or satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. It’s a dark place to be in. In this lack of confidence in God that Fr. Jacques Philippe speaks of, I no longer believe God is who He says He is. Oftentimes, I read the Word of God, but there is a disconnect between my head and my heart. I believe, in my head, what I have read, but my heart has not quite been enflamed and transformed by its truth. I catch myself reciting prayers, rather than praying them. My faith becomes more of a fan club than a lifestyle. Can I truly believe that what He offers is more than just a motto to live by, but a promise to live into?
I love the sweet prayer of St. Therese of Lisieux who says,
“My God, I choose all. I do not want to be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for You. I fear only one thing — that I should keep my own will. So take it, for I choose all that You will.”
In my restlessness, I have allowed fear to take over. To be a saint by halves is not the life Jesus has called me to because that would be a life founded on a scarcity mentality. No, Jesus calls me to be a saint fully alive, trusting in the truth of an abundance mentality. It’s a mentality that says: Jesus, You have more than enough to offer me and all that is Yours you give me without hesitation. God has created us for this purpose. It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that “Only in God will [man] find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC, #27). And I was completely enraptured by the entirety of this quote because I have often only heard a small piece of it: “You arouse us so that praising You may bring us joy because You have made us and drawn us to Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You…Come into my heart and inebriate it enabling me to forget the evils that beset me and embrace You, my only good” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions).
So, Jesus let this be the prayer of my heart this day:
Your mercy is so much greater than my disbelief. Like all things in life, that are worthwhile, this relationship takes time, discipline, and commitment. You offer me an abundant life. Help me believe it. Help me trust that You will fulfill the deepest longings of my heart. Grant me the grace to be an authentic follower of Your truth. Jesus, inspire me to recall the people who can journey alongside me and hold me accountable to strive for sainthood because we cannot walk this journey alone. If I don’t have that community around me, then provide it for me. I trust that You have given me Your promises and that You will come through. So I will wait patiently, knowing that Your timing is perfect. Jesus, help me believe that this way of life is possible. Holy Spirit come. Grant me the grace to remember all of the ways that You have been faithful and to trust that You will be faithful. Your Word is powerful and true. I rebuke the lies of Satan and place all of my confidence in You. Fill me up with Yourself. Your will be done. “I am no longer a slave but a child, and if a child, then also an heir, through God” (Galatians 4:7). Amen.