There are certain constant themes that run through the Scriptures. One such theme is that we are made to walk with God. I can easily say that all of us are hungry for God. We feel a natural inclination for the spiritual life. Whenever we sense that we are growing in the spiritual life, whenever we hear or read anything that touches that part of us that hungers for God, we cannot help but feel good – as if everything is ok in the world.
But the other theme in the Scriptures is that there is another part of us that has a tendency to move in a different location. Even a slight movement in a different direction takes us off the path to God. But because we have that centuries old desire to walk with God still within us, we will want to walk a solid path with God again.
We will know this intuitively at first. It is said in spiritual writings that God is both the goal and the goad. We walk a path to God as the goal, and simultaneously are nudged toward God – by God Himself as the goad!!
Yes, one could say that here, God acting as “goad” largely makes up that intuition within us that reacts as a warning for us when, by our bad decisions, we seem to be moving away from God rather than moving toward Him.
You just sort of know. You might feel guilty, as an example. The feeling of guilt has received a bad press as of late. That’s unfortunate, as the feeling of guilt can be a tremendous aid in the spiritual life letting us know, once again, if we are moving away from God by a poor decision. What is interesting here is that we might want to recognize that we indeed do “choose” to move away from God. We don’t stumble away from God accidently.
It can be a decision in a slight area, what we refer to as a venial sin. Or, it can be a decision to move away from God that involves a grave area. This is called a mortal sin. In either case we choose.
If we can additionally recognize that we make such choices repeatedly, than perhaps we can also recognize that we are in effect training ourselves in such a direction. This “training” imprints on us what is called a “tendency” toward sinful decision-making. That is why we can never be totally perfect after leaving confession.
Although absolved, we still leave with that tendency toward sin, which we sort of “did” to ourselves by our repeated choosing sin over a period of time. You could say we become addicted to moving in this direction, considering that there have been psychiatrists who have stated that the very nature of the mind is to be addicted. I guess we choose what we want to be addicted to.
God as “goal and goad” encourages us to be addicted to Him. This is a great addiction to have and trains us in a completely other direction, one filled with Grace and Light. But to choose this, we must see the logic that supports the need for a disciplined life. This does not imply anything forceful and stressful . A disciplined life can be quite gentle and graceful. It is simply a matter of falling in Love with God and allowing Him to teach us and guide us to Himself.
Reflecting on the act of choosing here is important. Why? Because we can talk night and day about sin and/or vice being the culprit that takes us away from God. But really, to get simplistic, what we are talking about here is excessive egoism, the lust of power over others, selfishness and the like. These aspects to our character is what influences our choices. Much of this is due to societal influence that acts easily upon a personal history that due to poor character training is ripe for such societal influence. To choose God, we need to be willing to let go and let God. In actuality, it is the spiritual definition of real maturity, immaturity being the choice to choose self over God and others. We are basically letting the Church form us rather than society. Always a good choice! Blessings! Peace, Fr. Walter