Day 27: Freedom and Struggle
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
‘The inner man is called by Christ to reach a more mature and complete evaluation that allows him to distinguish and judge various movements of his heart…this task can be carried out and is truly worthy of man’ (TOB 48:4).
I love that. I am worthy of struggle—the tussle between a harmonious union of my members, and disintegration—offbeat and sour chords, my humanity like an orchestra still tuning up. I rejoice that I am a work in progress, and when my emotions and desires alert me to breakdowns within or without, I can pick up a little cross and count on Jesus’ help to rebuke His enemy. Composed, I can read what is going on and stay true to Him and my best self.
In the struggle. Struggle is not a miserable word. It implies aspiration toward a goal—integration--and resistance in route. ‘Giving in’ isn’t struggle. Conceding to the flesh has tons of rewards. Fall back on feather beds of lust. Or self-pity. Or contempt. All grant us a fake pass from struggle. The ‘sick’ need chemicals, not a kick in the pants. Self-mastery demands we stick a little cross in it--down and dirty in the pack of lies—and cling. Before Jesus we listen for truth within the veil of divine love. Struggle demands an agile will that in weakness aligns itself wordlessly to Jesus.
My little cross isn’t my sin (porn habits, fantasy flights, etc.) or agreement with my ‘go-to’ misidentifications (‘gay’, ‘misfit’, ‘stupid’, ‘ugly’)—picking up a cross implies decisive action amid familiar temptations and choosing the good. When I sin and wallow in it, then I go to confession. When I call out to Jesus or a Christian friend and not Baal or Ashteroth, I pick up my cross. Waking up to shameful self-accusations? Invoke the cross immediately and remind yourself of one word or picture He has sent you (of the thousands). Truth torches 1,000 fake words.
A word to the deeply wounded. Jesus knows the weakness you never invited. But our common enemy is merciless and will use that injury to belittle you. Play tough. Pick up the cross amid the groaning of your wound. Employ your cross as a brace, a crutch, a splint for a disjointed limb. You will discover the level path of Jesus’ healing (Heb. 12:12, 13). As you carry your cross, the Crucified strengthens you in weakness and demons flee.
Cross-carrying invites our responsibility because we are worth it. The weakness at hand reminds us that integration is near and we can further its progress. We aspire to dignity, exalt Jesus amid familiar struggle, and He raises us up.
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’