In the grand scheme of things, there must be three pictures of each one of us before God: what God wants us to be, what we think we are, and what we actually are. I believe this life is about striving to synchronize these three pictures. Life is a battle trying to unite these three pictures. In each one of us is a disproportion and want of conformity; there is an imbalance created by the fall that causes man to be perpetually fighting. As Donald Burt put it: “our pilgrim journey is a tale of twisting and turning down the road to heaven. We don’t make our way through life like a straight arrow. We are more like tops… lurching from side to side, sometimes falling off as we lose momentum and need to be picked up”. We labor in pain as we await the fulfillment of our hope and the glorious coming of our savior as St. Paul describes it. It is like being trapped in the prison of the body where the soul is constantly striving to escape, in the word of Plato. St. Augustine put it so beautifully: “I longed for the chance to devote myself wholly to you, but I was held back… bound by the bonds of my own iron will. My two wills are in conflict and they rob my soul of all concentration (Confessions VIII, 5:10).
As we journey through this desert and vale of tears, we move from one trouble to another. First, we must acquire the energy and wisdom to discover what we must do to reach eternal life, which is more than just following the law as the rich young man in the gospel of Matthew. This endeavor may take forever, and some got stuck in this painful endeavor for a good trunk of their life, and others spend their whole life trying. After this, we must act on the discovery. When we actually set our mind on doing it, we realize how much we are incapable of doing it. This begins the battle between the spirit and the flesh. No matter where we are in life, this is never overcome to the point of utter annihilation.
Our third challenge may arise from discouragement. Many of a time, we feel like Sisyphus condemned to do the same boring thing again and again. Life can become a nuisance where we feel like there is nothing new under the sun. That too must be overcome for we find our energy and hope in the future life. We know this life is not all there is. We are like souls in purgatory; we suffer, but we know there is hope. We know our efforts will bear fruit and pay off. So we fight. When we acquire the discipline to keep going and fighting with enthusiasm and perdurance, and then there is worry. We worry about our children, our neighbors, our physical needs, our community, the governments… There is always something.
That’s the reality that both of us have to face in this life. It is the consequence of Adam and Eve trying to be god. That’s sin. That’s what happens to you and I when we think we can do it on our own, or when we give God the back seat. Be honest with yourself. Know who you are so you can understand how much you need God. When we pretend to make ourselves someone greater or lesser than who we are, we cannot accurately describe who we are. As a result, we lost the sight of where we are going. When we don’t go where we are going, we are remote from God for from him we come and to him we are returning. When we are remote from God, we become afraid of even God.
Honestly get to know yourself. That’s the most efficient remedy against this restlessness. “Know Thyself” was the motto inscribed in the doorpost at the oracle of Delphi in the Athens of Plato. To reveal man to man is the very reason God became incarnate. The search to want to know himself gives us St. Augustine and his masterpieces like the Confessions, the Trinitate, the City of God to name just a few, and he is a saint. Is there anything greater?
Start the journey to self-discovery. He is with you. Savor this delightful quote from the master: “What am I to myself without you, if not a guide to my own self-destruction? Or what am I, when all goes well for me, if not someone who sucks your milk, or savors you as food that does not get corrupted? And what is man, any man, as long as he is man?” (Confessions IV, 1:1).