By Andrew Kreye
Hi. I’m a sinner.
I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you are too.
But guess what?
There’s more to your story.
“There is no saint without a past. No sinner without a future.” – St. Augustine
1. Falling Down
“How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” – Psalm 13:3
I used to think that I was the only person who sinned. Like, actually sinned. I thought that if I told someone else about my sins, they would be disappointed with me. That they would be just as disgusted with me as I was. “Gross! He sins! Don’t touch him; you might catch it!”
The only time I ever admitted to someone that I had temptations was in the Sacrament of Confession.
When I went to Confession, I would confess the same sins over and over. It seemed like I was in an unbreakable pattern. That pattern looked something like this:
I felt weak. Like I would never be able to overcome my temptations.
It was like I was climbing a mountain, but every time I started going up, I’d fall back down. I could see the saints at the top of the mountain, and I would think, “Why can’t I just be a saint? They never fall!”
A saint isn’t someone who doesn’t fall. A saint is someone who keeps getting back up.
2. Get Back Up
“We will never be free of trials and temptations as long as our earthly life lasts.” – Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ 1.13
Sometimes when you fall down, you can get up on your own. But sometimes you need help.
It took me a long time to realize that I was trying to do everything on my own. I wasn’t letting God help me. I would ask for help but ignore the help He gave me.
It doesn’t always hurt when you fall. At least, not right away. Sometimes you just get a bruise or a scrape, and you think, “It’s just a bruise, I can keep going!” But after a few more falls, you start to notice it a little more. Eventually you realize that you can’t ignore it anymore. You need help.
I had fallen a lot. I was really bruised. I had asked God to forgive me, but I hadn’t let Him heal me. I couldn’t ignore the pain anymore. I knew I had to change, but I didn’t know how.
So, I prayed.
“I just want to be a saint. I don’t want to sin anymore.”
(I don’t know how to put tears into text, so you’ll just have to imagine that part.)
And that’s the story of how I stopped sinning.
3. Keep Going
“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9
If I’ll always have temptations, and I know I’ll fall again in the future, then what’s the point of trying not to? Why fight it?
Imagine I have a friend (I know it’s difficult, but bear with me). If I hurt that friend, and I refuse to apologize, will our relationship ever heal?
What if I apologize, but then continue to hurt that friend in the same way?
Our relationship with God is the most important thing in our lives. Shouldn’t we do our best to grow that relationship?
“But, Andrew? How do I resist temptations and grow closer to God?”
There are these things called virtues. They’re pretty cool. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a virtue as “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” Virtues are like good habits that help you avoid sin and make it easier to do the right thing. “They dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love,” (CCC, 1804).
You grow in virtue by doing good and by turning away from sin and back to God.
Basically, they’re spiritual muscles. The more you use ‘em, the stronger they get.
My intent with this blog is to continue to write about growing in virtue, about resisting temptations, and about growing closer to God in the little things. It’s easy to overlook the little things, but that’s where we can grow in virtue the most.
That was a lot of words, so let me wrap this up.
You are not alone. Everyone has temptations. Everyone sins.
As you grow in virtue, there will be times when you fall. That’s OK. But when you fall, call on Jesus. Call on our Mother Mary. The top of the mountain seems far away, but all the saints are cheering you on.
And, like I said, there’s more to your story.
Let’s be saints.
“…But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10