Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trying Again

I don't need a snazzy cover today.
The topic is snazzy enough!
...many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible.  But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility.  Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not:  faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can.  You certainly get none for leaving the question alone.  Not only in examinations, but in war, mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, or even fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it.  It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.  (Lewis, p.93)

I agree with Lewis's point.  I have heard lots of people comment on how it is "impossible" to expect people "nowadays" to refrain from sexual activity until they are married.    Sometimes it makes me fume, because it assumes our ancestors who claimed they did are liars.  (It assumes me to be a liar as well.   Call me a slut, and I'll be surprised, but I'll let you live, but don't any person dare call me a liar!)

I actually feel more charitable, though, when reading Lewis's words, because I, too, have my own "impossibility".   Sure, it's possible for most people, just not me.  What is this unworkability?   Well, if you can excuse the use of a four letter word in this post, it is staying on a d-i-e-t.    Once I fail in some small way, I tend to give up, because I wasn't perfect.  Sure, many people stay on Atkins™ until they are their desired weight, but it was "impossible" for me to do that.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity- like perfect charity- will not be attained by any merely human efforts.  You must ask for God's help.  Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given.  Never mind.  After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again.  Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself, but just this power of always trying again.  For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in the habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.  We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair of even our worst, for our failures are forgiven.  The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

So.... I suppose now is a good time to mention that I've been using Slimfast™ for the last two and a half weeks.   And I've been praying for me. (Lewis, p. 94)

For more discussion on this week's chapter of Mere Christianity, check out Sarah Salter's blog.


Anonymous said...

What a great reminder, Helen. We are meant to lean on grace for every single area of our lives. There is no division between our stuff and His. We turned our lives over to Him and He wants to help us be healthy and whole in all that means. Great post on this snazzy topic. :)

Glynn said...

And we'll pray for you, too, Helen. People are always doing impossible things, and with God, nothing is impossible.

Melissa from the Blue House said...

LOVED this. I love CS Lewis, and what a good comparison... chastity before marriage was a BREEZE compared to the torture of staying on a diet. I've always said I couldn't... but wow. You took away my excuse!
And how FUNNY that I clicked on your blog because you left a comment about being "Song of Solomon" on MY blog, and I click over to find your post on chastity... :)

pip said...

"It is wonderful what you can do when you have to."

It is so true, Helen. We have amazing inner resources and grace at our disposal. Sometimes, the idea of the size of the whole task is the hardest thing to get past...better to stay in the moment and do what is in front of you. Thanks for the post...I haven't read CS Lewis yet