Accept the Hardship that Real Transformation Requires to Lower your Resistance. Change will Happen Faster.
Those who follow Jesus on The Way will go through phases and mindsets that cover the gamut of emotions and attitudes. When things are progressing nicely and we feel good, it is relaxing, joyful and inspiring. When the Light has revealed aspects of ourselves that are hard to look at, we face embarrassment and the temptation to hide. At other times, we recognize patterns of behavior that seem so ingrained, so automatic and so strong that we wonder how these things will ever get dislodged and changed.
When you reach these revelatory moments, beware of mindsets that entertain despair and begin to cultivate an attitude of hopelessness. Perhaps realizing that despair and hopeless feelings are actually prideful reactions will help you to stay clear of these emotional states. The idea that desperate people are to be pitied is not helpful. There is no question that when people reach such a low point as to consider suicide, they need help because they have lost touch with reality. It is normal that we have compassion when people suffer.
But we want to emphasize an important point for those who want to fulfill a spiritual purpose in life and that is; despair and hopelessness which can include self-loathing are in direct opposition to God and thus there is never a time to indulge in those emotions or mindsets. You will go through difficult periods in your life, especially if you have decided to follow Christ. How difficult those will be remains to be seen but keep in mind, your old life has to die and living things don’t generally give up life without a struggle. Your old life will fight to remain alive.
When despair presents itself, you MUST have a plan of action already established in your mind. It should always begin with prayer. Remember that Jesus showed us what happens when faced with a task that feels hugely daunting. In the garden of Gethsemane, the night He was to begin His Passion, He prayed that God might take the cup from Him so that he wouldn’t have to drink it. He asked for it to be taken from Him. His prayer included the very important qualifier, ‘not my will but Thy Will be done’. He allowed God to make the final call. When he saw God was not intervening, he realized there was no way to forgo what was destined except by flat out refusing to participate. He thus accepted what would have to happen.
I think it is safe to say that the physical pain and torture Jesus went through during His Passion was incredibly rigorous. He had to feel humiliation and heart break at watching people who had once proclaimed to love Him shouting for Him to be crucified and finally having sadistic Roman guards drive huge nails through His flesh and bone as he was nailed to the cross. Jesus appeared to go through it without reacting in anger. Surely He felt the scourge of the torture and the deep sadness at being hated given that He brought God’s message of Love. But He didn’t resist for one simple reason, He had accepted what had to happen and made the decision to proceed willingly.
This one aspect of life in God must be hammered home because it will provide you incredible strength, resilience and Grace on your journey. Your decision to give over to what your Path requires will define how hard it feels and how long it takes. Keep in mind that Jesus took on a Path that He did not deserve. He was born without sin and lived in obedience to God. He had clean karma and was asked by God to complete a grueling Mission that would result in the miracle of liberating all mankind from sin. He accepted the Mission because He loved God and He loved us. His own salvation was already guaranteed but that wasn’t His focus. His focus was the Mission He was given which meant God saw that He could fulfill it. His choice would impact all of humanity forever. Certainly this weight would be a burden to consider at times but His faith was strong. He didn’t try to do it by His own will but relied on the Will of the Father/Mother and allowed Grace to flow into Him when it was hard.
The big difference between us and Jesus is that what we have to go through actually is deserved. Our choices and lack of consciousness got us to this moment. Our Path in the beginning involves sifting through the life we have lived and letting the Light show us what we have made of our years thus far. It takes maturity to be able to even hear and accept that you have constructed a life with very little input from God and that it is the source of anguish for you. We are all a little too quick to want to blame our circumstances, our parents, our bad luck and the difficulty of other people as the reason our lives are hard.
These factors are contributors but emphasizing them makes the Path very hard because all of these things are out of your control. The best thing you can do is accept that there is a way of being that is much more relaxed, much more energetic, much more useful and much purer that you can attain in a few years of diligent effort on the Path. Taking on this task will prepare you to have a very real and very direct relationship with God.
It is normal for souls who are drawn to a real spiritual Path to hit walls along the way that they didn’t expect. You will reach points of seeing patterns of your behavior that seem impossible to change. In fact, you can’t even imagine what it would be like NOT to be this way or that way. And here is the secret for how this will change… you won’t do it, God will. But you will have to do three things before God will rewire your being so the old behavior fades away.
The first thing you must do is examine the behavior in question thoroughly to understand what is at the root of it. You can ask Jesus and Mary to bring Light so you can see it in its entirety but this is one of the first places that seekers falter. They don’t get to the root of the reason why they act as they do. If you don’t know why you are doing what you are doing, as in what it is you hope to get or are getting from your actions, you won’t be able to make a new decision.
Why is the decision so important? Because that’s where your power is. God won’t work a miracle in you until you have seen why you are doing what you are doing. You have to uncover what you think you gain from your action, see the falsity in all that, and then decide to make a new choice. If you are thorough in this part of the work meaning you meditated and shared your insights with your Priest and the Priest agreed that you have seen things completely enough, now you can invite the transformative power of God to change you.
Your second step is to make a strong prayer declaring what you have seen and what you want with all the heart you can muster. Your prayer begins a process that you won’t be able to understand. God through Jesus and Mary (and whomever works for them on the spiritual side) orchestrates whatever needs to happen to make the change in you. The first step is often the confusing one. This is when God will often, though not always, provide a test. It will be a test that you can pass if you remain aware and are committed to the change. God will provide you the opportunity to either act as you always have or else follow through on your request and take another approach.
In this moment, you affirm or defy your request. Since God will not violate your free will, if you persist in your old way of being (that you have said you wanted to change), God will see this as a sign of your attachment to the old and may not intervene. The key in the moment is to recognize that because you have prayed to be different, God wants to see a little ‘skin’. He/She will put you through an experience and by your actions, you reveal where your heart is. What you want shows where your heart is. What you do shows what you truly want.
The test will last as long as God wants it too and will be as hard as it needs to be for God to be satisfied that His Power is welcomed in your life. He is not trying to make you suffer but making sure you really want what you say you want. Think of what Jesus went through while fasting for 40 days following His baptism. He was tested and tempted when at his weakest to see if he would succumb under difficult pressure. He remained faithful and thus His Mission began on that foundation.
God is hoping to ignite the full Christ Force in you so you can be a useful bearer of Light in your life. As a recap, you will have to first be thorough in examining the behavior or belief system you want changed in order to see the root of why it is alive in you. Second, make the prayer and ask for what you want. It is helpful to express remorse for how you have been if this is appropriate and then let it go. God has heard you. Following your request, you may be tested. Be alert for a situation that tempts you to act out your old behavior. Muster the strength of your will, the help of your Priest and continued prayer to act in a new way.
You will gain strength from overcoming the challenge God puts before you. Your third and final step is to vigilantly notice your habitual tendency as you walk through your day to day life. As discussed in the beginning, you need a plan. What will you do at the moment when you want to fall into your old behavior? Every day and as often as you see it, make the choice to act in the new way, the Way that is in accord with God. Making these choices day in and day out will strengthen you as well as draw God’s Grace to help you.
Sometimes little by little and sometimes all at once you will find the power of the old behavior drained off. You will reach a point where the old way will feel like a piece of clothing that totally doesn’t fit anymore. You will be able to see it and realize why it appealed to you but you have now outgrown it. It will simply no longer work as it once did.
Before we conclude this lesson, I want to reinforce one thing. We can be creatures of habit and since we have free will, we must always maintain the humility that we can choose the old behavior in times of trial. This may be why AA teaches that once you are an alcoholic, you are always one. In our school, we would say you are no longer an alcoholic but that the tendency may lie dormant in you to begin drinking again for quite some time. Don’t go tempting fate by hanging out in bars or stocking up your liquor cabinet.
When you can feel that the behavior is transformed, praise God! He has worked a miracle in you given to you because of your decision, your faith and your effort. Remove tempting circumstances that stir up the old behavior. Avoid toxic people where possible. Increase in your devotion. Let your experience be the hope that fuels another who is coming up behind you.