Not to Judge

IMG_0529In a monastery there were two remarkable brothers who soon merited to see the grace of God descend upon each other. Now one day it happened that one of them went out of the monastery on a Friday and saw someone who was eating in the morning, and he said to him, ‘Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ Later there was the synaxis [assembly] as usual. Now his brother saw that grace had withdrawn from him, and he was grieved. When they had returned to the cell he said to him, ‘My brother, what have you done? Indeed, I do not see the grace of God upon you as it used to be.’ The other answered him, ‘I am not aware of having done anything wrong, either in act or in thought.’ His brother said to him, ‘Have you spoken any words?’ Then he remembered and said, ‘Yesterday I saw someone who was eating outside the monastery early in the day, and I said to him, ‘Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ This is my sin. But labor with me for two weeks, praying God to forgive me.’ They did this, and at the end of two weeks one brother saw the grace of God come upon the other and they were comforted and gave thanks to God.

From the Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

There are a number of marvelous aspects of this small story. One is the all-too-common occasion of judging another. It is a revelation that even such holy men as those who are laboring unceasingly in prayer can have the simple temptation to fix someone else’s practice of the fast. This is not the story of an over-zealous recent convert, but a father of the desert. Among believers, temptation and sin know no strangers.

Another marvel is that these good fathers “see the grace of God.” We are not told how they see the grace, or even fully what it means “to see the grace of God upon them.” It is interesting to me that the story says that they merited to “see the grace of God descend upon each other,” which is a world away from “seeing the grace of God descend upon themselves.” I suspect that the former is a blessing, whereas the latter would be a dangerous if not disastrous temptation.

Another marvel is the humility with which the offending brother accepts the word that grace is not upon him “as it used to be.” Which leads to the final marvel – the simple statement that they prayed together for two weeks for his forgiveness. Our religious world is often infected with legal imagery of sin and forgiveness – imagery which makes us instantly guilty and instantly forgiven. Such imagery does not allow us to contemplate the true effect of sin in our lives, nor does it allow us to understand the true scope of forgiveness and healing.

But these blessed fathers of the desert understood much. They do not doubt God’s love or mercy but they do not labor for forgiveness as a mere legality. Forgiveness also represents the healing of our soul and the restoration of our life with God. Perhaps I should add one last marvel to my list: God hears their prayer and His grace descends upon him.

May God hear our prayer and may His grace descend upon us!

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40 Responses to “Not to Judge”

  1. AR Says:

    These last few posts might have been titled, for me, “To Listen and Not To Speak.” I am sometimes tempted to take a vow of silence but prudence and the demands of my family restrain me. Hmph.

  2. «Non giudicate, e non sarete giudicati; non condannate, e non sarete condannati» (Lc 6:37) « Nati dallo Spirito Says:

    […] tratto dal blog “Glory to God for all things” di p. Stephen […]

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Father Stephen, this post is particularly relevant to me today. Judging others is one of my greatest sins, and I find myself speaking of the myriad ways this sin crops up in my life at every Confession. Lately this sin has become particularly objectionable to me, and I am striving to overcome it in any small way I can.

  4. Xenia Says:

    This is a wonderful post. What a hard thing to try to do in practice. It’s of course not every day that we can spot the presence or absence of grace in others; often it has to do with the presence or absence of grace within ourselves. I have experienced, though, times when I can look into someone else’s countenance and immediately spot the state of their heart, especially with someone close who I’ve been praying for. It’s hard to describe but it can simply be the look of anger and pain or of love in their eyes. But when this has happened to me with someone close and I’ve tried to say that I notice that their spirit is troubled, I have not encountered humility but anger and annoyance that I was being judgmental. And probably the way I handled it did not reflect humility on my part. So it is hard to know how to express concern to someone that perhaps they are out of a state of grace without sounding judgmental and putting them off even further.

  5. Mrs. Mutton Says:

    It’s anecdotes like this that could tempt me to give up altogether — if such holy men have to labor for two weeks for God’s grace to descend on them again, what possible hope is there for me?! But then I remember that if there is no hope for the grace of God to come upon me, there is always His mercy, and a darn good thing, too.

  6. AR Says:

    I love people who say darn, darn it!

  7. payton Says:

    I have never heard that story – it is wonderful and convicting all at once.

  8. Dusty Henry Says:

    There is a type of non-judgment in our would today that is devilish. That sort of each to his own, I’m O.K. you’re O.K. kind of attitude, which says that there is no right and wrong. That is ruining our society.

    Is this what you advocate? Then how do you distinguish?

  9. fatherstephen Says:

    Dusty,

    I know the sort of thing you are describing. To some extent the sort of non-judgmental attitude you are describing is born of not-caring. What I am describing is born of love. I think there is no comparison. One destroys the soul, the other saves.

  10. Dusty Henry Says:

    Yes, I know what you mean. To distinguish between the soul destroying judgment and loving concern I have tried to use the word “discernment”.

    1 John 5:16 (New King James Version)
    “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.”

    This is the way love acts. It judges and prays. Or, better put, love discerns. And avoids being both milquetoast and harmful.

    I think your story perfectly illistrates this. One brother was “judgmental” and the other was discerning and prayerful.

  11. jo533281 Says:

    I find the idea of striving through prayer for my forgiveness terrible. I say this because unlike the men in your post, I do not sin once and then am “free” for two weeks to seek forgiveness and healing. As Mrs. Mutton said above, “what possible hope is there for me?”

    It seems to put things into perspective. I sin daily, the same sins again and again. I pray daily for healing and forgiveness for the same sins again and again. It almost seems like I’ll never be “free” from them in the same way these two brothers are “free”. It is as if this story is impossible for the likes of me. It seems that I must pray daily till my repose and then pray some more.

    This post almost hurts to hear. More so had I read this post even one year ago, while still being a Protestant. I dislike it and like it all at the same time. Thank you for posting it and for letting me throw out a few thoughts on the matter.

    John

  12. fatherstephen Says:

    John,
    Yes, I understand precisely what you are saying. I think there is this burden we carry – largely legal in nature – though we experience like an oppression – in which a forensic model of forgiveness would help us feel free (not unlike Luther’s sense of freedom in his grasp of justification by grace through faith). Oddly, as a young man (some near 40 years ago), I was deeply dissatisfied with the forensic account. Luther described the justified man as a “snow-covered dung hill.” Something inside me said, “I want to become a snow-covered snow hill.” And that spiritual instinct first found resonance in reading Vladimir Lossky’s Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (it was simply the first Orthodox material I’d ever run across). The doctrine of theosis, of salvation as union with God and forgiveness as the true and complete healing in Christ, made my heart leap. I was convinced on an existential level from that very moment of the truth of the matter. It was many years later before I became Orthodox, but I never thought about my salvation in any other way after that first introduction.

    I don’t think that such a healing will be completed in my life-time (hardly). But I think that anything less than such a complete salvation would be less than what Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection.

    The relief that I find in this daily struggle (after these years), is to concentrate on Christ and not on myself. “Christ within us the hope of glory.” Or as St. John the Forerunner said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” And I think he said it in the right order. One of the most comforting verses in Scripture (for me) is St Paul’s statement in Romans that “He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God.” It is an amazing verse (akin to St. Irenaeus’ ‘God became man that man might become god.’). One of the comforts for me is the knowledge that Christ has united Himself to me, even in my sin. Thus, though we should not sin so that the grace of God should abound – nevertheless it abounds. And so I don’t despair. We’re not meant to (and I did not hear despair in what you wrote).

    “I must pray daily til my repose and then pray some more.” I like that.

  13. oruaseht Says:

    Fr. Stephen, we have common ground in Lossky as our first Orthodox experience. His writing is prolific.

    I resonate with your post on the legal matters and the lack of contemplation of one’s sinfulness and it’s effects on one’s spiritual life. Salvation as “therapy” is neglected completely in the juridical model of Western Christianity (at least in my experience). The hospital model is far more helpful to me than the juridical one is, especially regarding living the Christian life and prescriptive spiritual direction that is needed. It’s transformation vs. juridical declaration.

    Fascinating post. Thank you for your words.

  14. yeamlak fitur Says:

    Judging is a big weakness, as long as we have eyes to see, it is unavoidable one. One sure thing like you said here Father if the heart is about love, it can be turned positive and not turn out devilish. The Orthodox way of life is good in that with continuously repenting and praying keeps us from despair.

  15. Karen Says:

    “Something inside me said, ‘I want to become a snow-covered snow hill.'”

    Umm . . . did you mean, “Something inside me said, “I do not want to become a snow-covered dung hill”?

    Father, bless! 🙂

    In one recent Confession, my Priest said to me that we believe in the Church that Christ “makes perfect” what is imperfect in us by His grace. In context, what he seemed to me to be saying was that, even as we are still on the road of repentance and although we are still in process of being healed, yet when we participate faithfully in the life and Mysteries of His Church, Christ in His grace completes whatever we lack. We don’t need to neurotically focus on our sinfulness–only on Christ and His sufficiency. That is far different than saying that God looks at me (still full of dung) and sees only His Son (pure as snow). It means that effectively, Christ is our surety for what we still lack, and we can trust His mercy and faithfulness to finish the work that He has indeed begun in us.

  16. Damaris Says:

    Karen —

    It seems to me that Father Stephen is saying he wanted to be righteous all through, not just covered with righteousness but still filthy inside. Correct me if I’m wrong (a common state of affairs!).

  17. Friday Highlights | Pseudo-Polymath Says:

    […] On judging others. […]

  18. Stones Cry Out - If they keep silent… » Things Heard: e91v5 Says:

    […] On judging others. […]

  19. TheraP Says:

    Beautiful post and comments. Peace be with you. And with all.

  20. Terry Says:

    Can I ask a fairly basic question? How does sin/grace/confession work in the Orthodox Church, as opposed to the RC church? My guess is that is not so legalistic, but that’s my only guess.

  21. fatherstephen Says:

    Terry,

    You are correct that things are not conceived or taught in much of a “legal” manner. Confession is stressed more in some jurisdictions than other – mostly based on some differing national experiences, etc. In Russian practice, confession is often made as a rule if you are planning to take communion. In the OCA (American daughter of Russian Church) the practice is generally to take communion pretty much weekly, and to confess about every 6 weeks (or that’s the general practice with which I’m familiar).

    If is made “to Christ,” the priest is “only a witness bearing testimony to Him of all things which you say.” The priest pronounces absolution at the end (the prayer of absolution differs between Russian and Greek practice – the Russian being similar to the Roman prayer).

    The focus tends to be on sin as “death at work in us” which is more easily described as a disease-like process. Thus the priest, in giving a penance (or epitemia as it is called) is primarily concerned with what will be helpful in the healing of a soul – what will promote true repentance. It is often the case that no penance is given – coming to confession itself being sufficient penance for many things.

    Monastic practice can be much stricter – but everything about monastic practice tends to be stricter – it’s part of what belongs to monasticism.

    Grace is understood as the very life of God given to us. Thus the whole life is grace is our struggle to live in constant communion with God. Sin is our breaking of communion with God and the “things we do wrong” are the consequence of that underlying problem. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Christ said.

    If anything, the Orthodox view of grace tends to make everything into a single life with the single goal of union with God in Christ. Prayer, confession, communion, fasting, almsgiving, etc., everything is understood in the light of union with God in Christ. I think this makes the understanding of what we know as the “Orthodox Way of Life” a fairly straightforward thing and not a multitude of discreet parts.

    In light of the present article (not to judge) – it is clear that forgiveness and the life of grace can come to us in many ways in the life of the Church. Confession is available and normative – but God is not limited to that. Communion is also given, “for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting.” Prayer and almsgiving, fasting, etc., all work towards the same end. Everything is for our salvation.

  22. cor callosum Says:

    Can you answer another basic question? I am ashamed that I do not know this after being raised in strict Protestant Christianity–but how do I make myself repent if I really don’t feel bad?

    Sometimes I am like the man in the story–I do something accidentally or heedlessly. When I realize it, I feel bad, try to fix it, and pray for forgiveness. But then sometimes, I know intellectually that I am “not supposed” to do something, but I don’t seem to have any emotional or spiritual motivation to enforce that intellectual knowledge. Sometimes it’s indifference (“I should be nicer to Dick, but he’s a rude jerk and I don’t care”) and sometimes it’s hard to see why it’s wrong (“she’s old and the truth will greatly upset her–there’s no one to be hurt by this lie”). Even if I, with great difficulty, stop these things–if I don’t feel sorry for the ones I’ve already done, how can it be real, acceptable repentance?

  23. fatherstephen Says:

    cor,

    First, there is a problem in which you have rooted repentance into a sporadic sorrow for a particular thing done wrong – which is then accompanied by all kinds of thoughts about mitigating circumstances, etc. It is an essentially forensic or legal understanding of sin – for which you do not find enough sorrow.

    The nature of the problem is that this is not the true character of repentance. Repentance is the proper and natural (i.e. as it would be without the fall) state of the heart and not just a consequence which should follow sin. We sin precisely because we do not have a repentant heart.

    Thus Scripture says, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” It is akin to humility.

    Indeed, repentance, in a certain sense, even describes how God is towards us (though there is no sin). He is “meek and lowly of heart.” We sin because our hearts have been hard – they are set on their own desires as if there were no God. And we discover that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

    Thus, we should begin the work of repentance by directing our mind and heart toward God and asking for mercy – including the mercy of a “clean heart.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” It is in the face of God and in the light of His love for us and our love for Him that repentance is born. If our hearts become humble before God, then we will also be able to maintain our repentance (a broken heart) when we pray for forgiveness. It is a great gift.

    The Orthodox practice of the remembrance of God (saying the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and similar activities) has this goal before it. Added to that is the practice of “prostrations” (a complete bow in which we fall to our knees and bow our heads to the floor) which should accompany prayer at many times (we often begin our daily prayers with prostrations – however many – saying, ‘O God, cleanse me a sinner’). Fasting is also of great help.

    The point, from Orthodox practice, is that you cannot get to the place of a repentant heart by thinking alone. It requires much from us: disciplined prayer, fasting, prostrations, the giving of alms.

    Read the Psalms as you pray (use them for prayer – lots of them) they are full of humility and repentance and will gradually retrain your heart.

    “Repenting” over sin is a minor thing (more or less) compared with learning a true repentant heart before God. The problem, in a nutshell, is that repentance will not ever be acquired if it is understood and sought as a feeling of sorrow about something we’ve done. Indeed, such focusing on the past will make it impossible to pray from the heart, for the heart is always in the present (as is the Kingdom of God). Thus we are told: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Note that He doesn’t say, “Repent, because you have sinned and I’m going to judge you.” If we are to see the Kingdom of heaven here and now (which is what the invitation means) then we must repent in the here and now.

    I hope this is of some help.

    The little book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil by Archimandrite Meletios Webber (Conciliar Press) is a fairly new book and quite readable that might be of some interest. There are many others, as well. This particular article might be of some use.

  24. fatherstephen Says:

    Karen,
    I did not mean to overlook your comment. What you say is true. The difference is that what I heard in “snow-covered dung hill” is that this was as good as it ever gets – that our righteousness in Christ is merely a forensic righteousness – and I found that unsatisfactory. As I wrote in another comment, we labor of the course of a lifetime. God indeed “completes that which is lacking” and does so “from glory to glory.”

  25. Terry Says:

    Thank you for your response.

    Its interesting that the question on repentance came in after my own post. I have been dealing with this issue as well. Being Catholic, there is the sense that once you’re in mortal sin, then there is a severance of God’s grace and friendship until one gets to confession. Is this the same understanding in the Orthodox Church?

    I find it difficult to not inevitably get depressed with the many ways I stumble throughout my day, or week. When this happens, my desire to pray, or maintain Christian practice falls as well (because I think, “if one is in mortal sin, what’s the point?”). I know this can’t be right-I want to “capture” a spirit of being able to acknowledge that I’m going to miss the mark, but also to praise God for His love.

    If that makes sense?

  26. fatherstephen Says:

    Terry,
    There is not the same sense of severance of God’s grace and friendship until confession. Were it not for God’s grace and friendship, we’d never even get to confession. We may be in a state of resisting God’s grace and friendship – but nothing changes His grace and friendship (despite the language of “grace was not upon him”). If I hold my breath, theoretically I could suffocate. But it would not be because there was no air.

  27. Karen Says:

    Dear Father, bless! Thank you. Yes, I understand what you meant, and can certainly identify with your dissatisfaction with that old forensic formula. What we want and need is real transformation (and the hope of that in good measure by God’s grace, even in this life).

    Damaris, yes. In my original comment/question, I just meant to clarify that Fr. Stephen meant that he was NOT satisfied to remain a dung heap, even snow-covered, but I think I confused that by inadvertently inserting the word “become” in place of Father’s word “be.” That was unintentional on my part.

  28. Mrs. Mutton Says:

    This has been one of the most enlightening discussions I’ve ever seen anywhere. For the first time since becoming Orthodox nearly 19 years ago, I feel as if I finally understand repentance in the Orthodox sense, thanks to your response to Cor. And your comment, “If I hold my breath…I could suffocate. But it would not be because there was no air” — WOW!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH, FATHER!!!

  29. cor callosum Says:

    Father–

    Thank you for your reply. Your diagnosis that my problem stems from “living in my head” and trying to act by thinking alone is reasonable to me, and I appreciate your suggestions for overcoming this.

    As someone who has always loved the study of history, I was thinking about your words yesterday, and was surprised to see your most recent post anticipated my question. You said:

    “…focusing on the past will make it impossible to pray from the heart, for the heart is always in the present (as is the Kingdom of God). Thus we are told: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ”

    Then what is the place of time, of the past (and of my particular past) in the working-out of the Kingdom of God? Is there such a thing as Providence? Are we wrong to seek order and plan in our lives?

    When I was growing up, I was taught that sin was the violation of God’s Plan. This Plan in practice was going to church and following moral rules(and feeling bad when you broke them). I began to reject this when I realized that it had no place for connection with God (prayer) or much connection with Christ’s Resurrection. I guess the idea has sunk much deeper into my thought process than I realized, though.

  30. fatherstephen Says:

    Cor callosum

    I think there absolutely is such a thing as Providence (not that we have much of a clue as to what God’s plan is in our life). Rather it is the trust that our lives are in the hand of a good God who is working all things together for our salvation (even when we sin and take a wrong turn). There is one take on Providence that would tend to see only one highway for our life and that when we take a wrong turn – we must go back and correct it and get back on the previous route. It reminds me of my GPS in my car which occasionally, having run out of on-the-map solutions, says, “If possible make a U-turn!” There is another understanding of Providence, more common in the Eastern Fathers in which God’s work in our lives is seen as far more creative. There is not one route, but one destination. Thus if we make a wrong turn, God is quite capable of continuing to bring us to union with Him. The problems is not that of a route, but of our heart. Repentance is not the correction of the path in our life (which would tend to make history utterly immutable and the real “god” in our life). Repentance is having a heart with which God can do something.

    The best example I can think of in this is King David, whom the Scriptures describe as a “man after God’s own heart.” Of course, he was also complicit in the death of Uriah the Hittite whose wife he had taken in an adulterous affair. Murder and adultery are clearly quite wrong. However, when the Prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin, he did not seek to defend or excuse himself. I’ve often thought that he could have argued that he wasn’t directly reponsible for Uriah’s death, etc.

    Instead, David is a man after God’s own heart. Faced with his sin he repents – in sackcloth and ashes – in fasting and prayer. And he finds mercy from God (though a difficult mercy). Later a child from that union would be in the line of the Messiah. Such is God’s Provident mercy. We cannot say that God willed for David to murder or commit adultery. Providence is mercy of God displayed in history. It redeems history gathering the whole of it into the renewal and recreation of the world in His glorious resurrection.

    If you choose wrong – choose God. Even history is redeemed by Him.

    I was tortured for a number of years over several decisions in my life that, like many decisions, were irrevocable and seemed wrong in retrospect. The adversary tormented me and I found it depressing. Coming to understand God’s Providence in the manner I’ve described has allowed me to bless God and give thanks to Him for all things (including my wrong decisions – for by His mercy even these things have been used to His glory and for my salvation). I would not be where I am, doing what I do, etc., except for those wrong decisions. But I do not see my present circumstance as a result of wrong decisions, but the result of God’s mercy which has redeemed all things. He is the “glory and the lifter of my head.”

  31. Karen Says:

    Dear Father, bless! What a blessing is this patristic understanding of God’s Providence in our redemption.

    “Repentance is not the correction of the path in our life (which would tend to make history utterly immutable and the real “god” in our life). Repentance is having a heart with which God can do something.”

    I find this to be so very true!

  32. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    Dear Father Stephen,

    I have been thinking about this post for weeks, and am trying to understand what laboring for forgiveness is and is not, or perhaps, what it does and does not include.

    Does it include wondering or trying to figure out if God has truly forgiven one, and if so, at what point(s)?

    Thank you.

    From a slow learner,

    Anonymous God Blogger

  33. fatherstephen Says:

    Anonymous,
    God forgives. That is a settled matter. What the story reflects in its language of forgiveness, refers to a healing and restoration within the soul of the monk who had sinned. When we turn from God, we often harm ourselves. Healing that harm is a work of grace and often is not immediate. God has forgiven and given the grace of healing to us – but the healing can sometimes be slow. It is this reality that is reflected in the language of the story. “He saw the grace of God return,” could also be stated, “He saw that he was healed from the damage done to his heart,” or something of the sort.

  34. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    Dear Father Stephen,

    Thank you! That is a relief.

    It seems to me there is a lot of translation or reinterpretation of some of these stories that has to occur. Here’s another one I wonder about, from the life of Seraphim of Sarov:

    “In his cell, [the young woman] noticed a big candle burning before the icon; Father Seraphim told her: ‘This candle was brought by a good man during the storm, and I lit it beseeching God to turn from his holy wrath. Indeed, everything at Sarov might have been destroyed, so great was God’s anger with the monastery.'”

    This doesn’t seem like the same God that Jesus speaks of when the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village that had rejected Jesus, and He said that the Son of Man did not come to destroy but to save.

    So if there IS some kind of language- or terminology-based disconnect that is causing me so much trouble with these stories, and with some of the teachings and/or remarks of various holy writings, here are my questions, IF you have time to respond:

    1. What might you say would be some of the principles of interpretation/translation that would be helpful to keep in mind as I continue to come across troubling stuff in Orthodoxy?

    2. Also, did you have to go through a process of learning to interpret this stuff, learning to dealing with what I would describe as the off-gasses or the emotional/spiritual static from things in the church prayers (like the morning prayer that gives thanks to God for not killing us in the night, or the prayer–in the Vigil, maybe?–about all the wrath that is stored up against us)?

    3. If you went through such a process, did you ever struggle with fears that you were being untrue to the material by reinterpreting it in your thinking?

    4. Did the process of reinterpretation (or however would be best to describe it) ever make you so tired that you felt angry, numb, or despairing?

    Thank you! I know that is a lot of questions–I’ll be happy to listen to anything with which you may have time/inclination to respond.

    Anonymous God Blogger

  35. fatherstephen Says:

    Anonymous,
    These are very good questions and I’ll attempt to answer, being as honest as I can. To a great extent I think this troubling form of language is only rightly interpreted from within a good heart. Wrath, God’s anger, killing us in the night, and the like, are phrases that in the wrong hands, or the wrong heart, produce the opposite of their intention. It is the language of love, even a language of excess that from within a full heart does not hurt or destroy. From within a heart that does not know God, or which is strained and burdened in wrong ways, this language is very destructive indeed.
    There certainly was a time in my life when such words and phrases were extremely troublesome. I was not raised within the Tradition of the fathers. Culturally, I had plenty of exposure to distortions of God. I remember of cousin of mine who suffered for many decades with a painful and crippling arthritis. Yet in her last days she was a believing and joyful Christian. I asked her at the time how it was that she was grateful before God given how she had suffered through the years. She replied, “I have not always been grateful. I used to get up in the mornings and curse God. But that was before I knew He was good.”

    It was one of the most profound conversations in my life. If you know God and you know He is good, then you know that even His wrath is good and is nothing that destroys us. Coming to believe this was a journey of many years.

    I’ve certainly had plenty of years of numbness, anger, etc., though they have largely passed (or so it seems). From a variety of directions, I began to understand if not the “reinterpretation” then certainly an “interpretation according to the Tradition.” I’ve read the fathers and Orthodox theology as the only trustworthy guide for probably the last 30 years, more or less. The generally consistent witness of that Tradition both rescued me from a lot of grief and formed my thoughts on these things.

    Perhaps a starting place was coming to believe first and foremost that God is good and that He wills us good. Though as C.S.Lewis said about his Aslan character, “He’s not exactly a tame lion – but he’s good.”

    I do not want a God that I can understand or reduce to a level of understanding. I want a God to love and to love me and heal me. I suspect that it may take many struggles in my life for that healing to occur (and the healing will never be fully manifest in this life).

    I think the tiredness and the anger, etc., probably come from a place within us that itself needs to be healed. It’s not the ideas – it’s our heart. As the heart is healed we begin to see more and to see in a different way. Then the “reinterpretation” becomes not a tiring intellectual or emotional matter but is rather natural, flowing from the heart. I could say more, but I’ll start with that much.

  36. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    You wrote, “Then the “reinterpretation” becomes not a tiring intellectual or emotional matter but is rather natural, flowing from the heart.”

    This is huge! Thank you! And thank you for your holy and genuine response, glory to God!

    A lifetime to heal, and beyond–feels supra-true!

  37. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    But still, I do find it hard to believe that at least SOMETIMES, God doesn’t listen to some of those parts of prayers and think, “I wish they hadn’t phrased it quite like that…”

    Or maybe not…What do I know?

  38. fatherstephen Says:

    Yeah. I don’t think God ever says, “I wish…”

  39. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    …Huh. I’ll take that to heart. Thank you.

  40. anonymousgodblogger Says:

    …It had never occurred to me that God DOESN’T SAY THAT.

    So I was trying to think of what He might say instead.

    Maybe He says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

    O.k., thank you very much for all your help to all of us!

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