I was out having a drink with some friends when suddenly everyone at the table disappeared, and only an old Australian man and myself were left behind. The guy ( a new found friend ) turned around and asked me if I was a smoker. My immediate reply was it has been 14 months since I quit smoking. To which he exclaimed: “No wonder! Because everyone else at the table has gone out of the pub to smoke, and we are the only non-smokers left!” Only then did it dawn upon me, and I calmly answered him “Sir, I quit smoking 14 months ago, but I am yet a non-smoker!”
Don’t congratulate me. Not yet.
Not even perhaps after another 14 months, or after 14 years.
And I truly meant what I say – I am not a non-smoker. Not just yet. I am a smoker who has stopped for 14 months and counting. And the difference is really in the attitude.
You see, if I were to admit that I am a non-smoker, I would have let my guard down. And once I let my guard down, it is so easy and tempting to pick up a cigarette again! “Oh! Never mind, if I can stop for so long, I can stop again!”
Precisely I have first hand knowledge of how addictive it can be, that I dare not even let down my guard down for one second. It is the fear of going back to that bottomless pit that kept me on guard.
To admit that I am a non-smoker now is to say I have won the battle. But deep inside, I know it is an ongoing war.
And this is exactly what it is like living in this world. Whether my demon is smoking or otherwise, we are all faced with temptations. I draw the parallel between my smoking and what God teaches us about Sin – that we can never be too arrogant to say that we have “arrived”, that we have “won”, or we have “triumphed over evil”. So we should, and must, recognize that it is an ongoing war, a daily decision to choose God over devil, and a constant battle. There is no “winning” – the only time we win is when we are with God in Heaven. As long as we are on this earth, Sin is part and parcel of our daily lives, and it is very real.
I struggle a lot and I struggle still. Why is it that God allows me to continue sinning? I know God has given me free will, and if I so love Jesus the way He loves us, then I wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt Him, that I will do everything to please Him, and I will do nothing to anger him. So I blame myself, I feel guilty and I am ashamed, whenever I sin, and when I sin badly and greatly against God. The Ten Commandments are very clear! The theology of mortal sins tells us that we will be condemned to Hell! Sin will turn me away from God. The letter of the law is clear! I cannot escape punishment till I have gone through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And then on Sunday I listened to the Homily. Jesus came to fulfill the spirit of the law. His demands are harsher than the law! To look at another woman with lustful eyes is to have committed adultery? Wow! Where is the compassionate Christ that we are so used to? What exactly are Jesus’ demands?
If I have committed mortal sins, I will be turned away forever. I felt that Jesus’s standard is so high, that it is impossible to fulfill them. To live in accordance to His will is to be a saint. And I am not a Saint!!! And maybe, I should really proclaim that I have lost the war, and the devil has triumphed.
It is senseless to even say that the devil tempts me more now because I am a baptized son of God. To say that I am a “greater catch” for the devil is to be arrogant and to place importance on myself. I have sinned. And there is no excuse.
But where does that lead me?
That I should admit defeat and feel so guilty that I don’t dare to face our Father anymore?
Our God is a God who gives us Endless Hope, not hopeless end.
To give up the battle, to admit defeat, is to succumb to the devil and say it is the hopeless end.
Our God allow sus to Sin, because that is our human nature. The Commandments and the Law are not to make us feel guilty and turn away from God, but rather, as positive light to show us the way we should live as God’s people. That, perhaps in viewing it as an ongoing war, it is okay to lose some battles on some days – and maybe, just maybe, the number of days that I have won the battle iare going to be greater than the number of days I lose or have lost, as the days go by.
And that is Endless Hope.
Jesus is not going to condemn us, but it also does not mean we can go on sinning forever. Jesus offers Hope – hope that one day we will eventually triumph over sin.
I now know that there is a purpose when God allows me to sin. The purpose is to let me understand that I need God. For God gives me Endless Hope.
I cannot and should not continue in my sinful ways. Neither should I be overly harsh with myself and eventually turn myself away from God. The correct and only response, perhaps, is to pray to God to say that I am weak, that by myself alone I will not be able to overcome sin, that it is Through Him and With Him, that I can have the hope to overcome Sin, and discover His purpose and serve His Will.
Dear Heavenly Father
I have greatly sinned against You and I struggle. I know I am not supposed to continue sinning, yet it is so difficult for me to get out. I admit that I am weak, that I can never be arrogant to say I have won, just that I can never and will not say I am already a non-smoker. I may not be able to comprehend why You allow me to continue sinning this way. Maybe there is a greater purpose that I am not aware. Maybe You will reveal Your Will to me one day. But for now, help me by making me understand that what I am doing is wrong, and that I should make it right one day. that I need not be overly harsh for that will drive me away from You; yet I need to be constantly aware of my sinful ways. I pray and I cry out to You oh my Lord and my God, that You be with me, to give me endless hope, and to give me the strength, to fight the battle day by day, so that I can eventually win the war, and act in accordance with Your Will. Let thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.