Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christians; Of Frogs and Turtles

While we were in Louisiana for Thanksgiving last week, I came across a podcast by Fr. David Sloan Abernethy. A good friend suggested I follow Fr. Abernethy, and I'm appreciative of that suggestion. You should consider following his page too.

As I have stated many times here, I find it very helpful to take frequent accountings of myself, examinations of conscience and such. Fr. Abernethy has been doing a book study on "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" by St. John Climacus (from around AD 600).

I found it really fascinating, and had no problem enjoying the particular episode with no prior knowledge of previous episodes, the book, or of St. John (of the Ladder) at all.

The episode was on "discernment", and "part 2" at that. Here is the outline of what is discussed:

St. John begins to discuss what discernment allows us to see and how it must be used. (a) Discernment, he states, helps us to understand the capital vices and their offspring. It is the ability to see how certain actions and thoughts give rise to sin and teaches us how to avoid them. (b) Discernment helps us to examine our motives honestly and allows us to see that virtues and vices are sometimes intermingled. It even helps us to understand why certain prayers go unanswered by God. (c) Furthermore, such a gift helps us to know and anticipate the ways of demons and teaches us how to respond to situations involving multiple evils. (d) It leads us to scrutinize ourselves as a matter of course - thoroughly examining every virtue and vice. (e) He who has received this gift can detect hidden vices in others as well as in himself. He knows the seasons of the spiritual life, when the fruits of spiritual labors come, the movements of one's spirit and the different levels of sorrow and despair. (f) He makes the will of God his rule of life. (g) He knows which of the spiritual gifts are the most important and valuable. (h) He neglects no fault, no matter how small, seeing that it may bring his downfall. (i) A discerning man understands that sometimes we are vulnerable to certain sins simply because of body weaknesses. (j) He understands that relationships must be properly understood if they are to remain undefiled and holy. (k) He knows and desires to give what is best to God - the first fruits of his labors and his day. (l) He chooses the path in life which best suits him - the path that leads to sanctity. (m) Discernment helps him to see all things in their proper light.

This got me thinking about a couple of reptile analogies I have heard before. One about frogs - If you put a frog in hot water, he'll jump out, but if you put him in cold water and gradually turn up the heat, he'll stay there and die - and one about turtles - A turtle only moves forward when he sticks his neck out.

Yeh, so about frogs. I think we like to hop around a lot of times; jumping from one moment to another, reacting quickly and never really staying in one place long enough to soak in what's going on. Maybe we are afraid that the temperature on the water is going to get too hot too quickly, and we'll get burned - or die. Who knows?

I think Christians can be a lot like frogs - even jumping from church to church. I'm convinced more and more that it is because of an inability to slow down, really take time to understand what the Church is saying, but more importantly a refusal to really discern one's own personal nature; the motivations behind the actions.

Which leads me to the turtle. So true, the turtle only moves forward when he sticks his neck out, but at least he's moving forward. He moves slowly, but he knows where he's been, and he knows where he's going. And if he senses danger, he just tucks in that shell for a bit until the danger is gone.

Look, I know someone can counter these little analogies of mine, but it's my blog - haha- and so I think I would rather be a turtle. And, yeh, I think the Church is a turtle too, and with good reason.

It just seems to me that the turtle Christian is more mature; discerning before making a move, knowing his surroundings and enough about himself to know when to tuck in and when to stick his neck out.

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