How is it that I can so easily turn from a God who does not turn from me? How is it that I can ignore a God who pays so much attention to me and cares so deeply about every minuscule detail of my life? How is it that I could neglect to spend time with a God who is always with me, everywhere I go, every step I take?
My heart longs to be with my Lover. I burn and thirst with desire for Him. And yet, I have a disease. It is not the disease of abject sinfulness - oh, how I wish it were, that glorious state of searching for eternal fulfillment, marred only by the fact that the heart is searching in the wrong direction. God has made some of the greatest saints out of some of the greatest sinners, by arresting the attention of their ever-wandering, ever-seeking hearts on the One Fulfillment of their desire. No, this disease is a great deal more insidious, a great deal more sickening, a great deal more crippling.
It is the disease of apathy. Lukewarmness. Tepidity. Being a room-temperature Christian, not compelled and driven enough to seek fulfillment in God or anything otherwise. I am an abject sinner, precisely because I am not such an abject sinner, nor a hallowed saint.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea, write this:
‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation, says this: “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
I speak so eloquently and so often about the need for us to be driven, determined, energetic Catholics, to draw our swords and shields and charge into battle, to fight on till the bitter end - yet I taste the bitter bile of hypocrisy in my mouth. I exhort my fellow Catholics to prayer and fasting, to spending time with the Scriptures, to sitting at the feet of our Lord and being wrapped in the mantle of our Blessed Mother, yet do I do these things as I would have others do?
I can accurately say that I have a prayer life. But can I accurately say that I live a life of prayer? I can say I spend time with God every day - but can I say that I truly give Him my attention and my heart?
St. Josemaria Escriva's words convict me. They spear my heart like a white-hot dagger.
"It hurts me to see the danger of lukewarmness in which you place yourself when you do not strive seriously for perfection in your state in life. Say with me: I don't want to be lukewarm! Confige timore tuo carnes meas, pierce thou my flesh with thy fear: grant me, my God, a filial fear that will make me react!" - St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #326
"How are you going to get out of that state of lukewarmness and lamentable languor if you do not make use of the means? You struggle very little, and when you make an effort, you do so as if annoyed and uneasy. You even seem to hope that your feeble efforts will produce no results, so that you can then justify yourself and you will not have to make demands on yourself and others will not ask any more of you. It is your own will you are following, not God’s. If you don’t change in earnest you will neither be happy nor be able to obtain the peace you now lack. Humble yourself before God, and try really to want to." - St. Josemaria Escriva, The Struggle, #146
There is another danger here, one to which I am all too susceptible. When I am angry at myself, when I confront myself over my languishing spirit and convict my heart, I begin to revile myself. I begin to consider myself a hopeless case - if I haven't built this or that habit or developed this or that virtue by now, then how will I ever do it? Clearly, everything I do, everything I try, every sincere attempt I make at returning to the God who loves me is doomed to fall short. I am pathetic in my lack of resolve and discipline.
And yet... perhaps this realization is the key. Perhaps the moment in which I realize my powerlessness is the moment in which I have the greatest power of all - the power of Christ within me. Perhaps this admission of guilt, of wretchedness, of lukewarmness, is precisely the point at which I should recognize that no, I CAN'T do it on my own, I CAN'T return to God through my own means.
And the most blessed and beautiful thought comes to mind: I can't do it... and He doesn't expect me to.
He is a Lover, after all. A wildly passionate, sensual, mysterious, devoted Lover, with a heart of infinite fire and gold. I cannot close the distance between myself and Him because I am man - but He can close the distance between us in a heartbeat, if only I invite Him to do so, because He is God. If I ask Him to come forward an inch, He will come forward ten miles, and I love Him all the more for that.
Come and find me, O God. Come and rescue me from the depths of my own apathy. I wish to buy from you this purest gold, these white garments, this healing salve that will reanimate my dead flesh. Rekindle this waning fire in my heart; blow fresh air on this smoldering ember from what was once a great fire. Ignite this heart of driftwood in the furnace of Your Sacred Heart. Burn me up, tear me apart, and put me back together again, a new creation. Grant me suffering, that I might see You, and grant me joy and peace, that I might endure that suffering. O God, grant me Your humility, Your grace, and Your love, by the eternal and steadfast sacrifice of Your Son, my Lord and Lover, Jesus Christ.