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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Temptations

It's a powerful scene in "Saving Private Ryan". Captain Miller is dying, leaning on a motorcycle, watching the oncoming Nazi tank. He can't move. There is no one to save him. But he won't stop fighting; his thousand-yard-stare takes in the tank and the surrounding destruction of ongoing battle, he raises his sidearm, a hangun, and fires. One shot. Then another. Then another. And another.

It does nothing. The tank keeps coming, unaffected. But Captain Miller is resolute, and he lifts his gun for the last time, the last round...and fires.

And the tank explodes. He is surprised and then sees the aircraft overhead, dropping the boms, realizing that it was the airstrike that saved him.

Fighting Temptation

We all struggle with temptations, and we all lose those battles. And every week, every month, every time we fall...we bring those battle wounds into Confession, trying to figure out how we can fight so hard and constantly lose. The same thing, over and over again. And we go back out, and we start shooting at tanks again, but that airstrike never arrives to save us.

And there's a reason for that.

During Lent, I read something, somewhere, about this very issue. And the author gave some GREAT advice which served to put this into perspective. He explained that people try to fight temptations on their own. They know they will come, they resist and resist and resist...and succomb to the temptation. Over and over again.

They failed to call for an airstrike.

It's that simple. They are shooting at tanks with a hand weapon and expecting the tank to stop.

We simply don't have the ability to fight them. When it comes to mortal sins, we're already wounded and that sin is the mortal blow. It's the tank. But we shouldn't wait until we're wounded to call for assistance. We should be calling as soon as we recognize the temptation and call it what it is.

But it's never too late...when we see that tank looming, we have to realize that we've already been beaten and we need help and we need to call for a radical airstrike. Because we can't possibly fight it. We can maybe hold something off, but we can't banish it.

The author did not use military imagery, so all of the above is my translation of what he said, and really, the movie just played into what he had to say. It made sense to me. We have to call for help, and we have to let Jesus handle those temptations and fight them off. That's what it means to lean on Him and to let our burdens go; give them into the Lord's hands and realize we are too weak and wounded to fight this battle. If we try, we will die.

The strike comes from above...not our own hands.

I've tried to put this into practice, and when recognizing a temptation, I named it, I gave it in prayer to Jesus and asked Him to take it away...and literally, over and over again, the temptation was banished. Not always...sometimes we learn lessons through our failures. We always have to be prepared for God's answer, and our free will is NEVER compromises....every sin remains a personal choice.

The Dream

This week I've really been struggling with some things, and that struggle continues. Prayer has been difficult and I haven't been able to focus. I usually pray the rosary en route to work, but this week I skipped it twice and never got to it later in the day. I've been praying Liturgy of the Hours (morning prayer) and even THAT has not held my attention, even in its newness.

I wouldn't call this "dryness", but rather, something else. And what's happening in my spiritual life is directly related to the other issues that I'm facing. Or not facing; however you look at it.

But I had a dream the other night, and I can't remember most of it, but I do remember the "impressions" and a conversation with someone unseen. In the dream, it was someone very much known to me, and I to her, or maybe him. I think there were a couple speakers, but I could not see their faces. We discussed theology, and we discussed the spiritual life and temptation.

One of the speakers was the Blessed Mother, and both she and the other speaker, a male (a Saint, although I don't know which) told me the same thing and explained in in depth. Yet they weren't lecturing...I was a direct participant in the conversation, as though we were dear friends sitting in a livingroom having coffee together.

I don't remember most of the dream or the conversation, and I don't remember the vocal quality of the people speaking to me. But I do remember the important nugget of advice I was given with regard to fighting temptation. The Blessed Mother told me that I was doing everything wrong, even though I knew better, and so she explained differently. She explained that I was still trying to fight all of my own battles, but I had to surrender...to Jesus. Because I didn't have to fight those battles as He could do it for me. She explained that what I had to remember was this: INVITE Jesus into the battle. Don't just hand him the problem and wash my hands, but ASK HIM to literally step in between me and the temptation. And then let him take over. I should invite Jesus into the sin so He can banish it, and invite Him into the pain, so He can heal it.

I understood, then, that until I really learn this, I'll keep going to Confession with the same old things, big and small, over and over again.

It was just a dream, and yet...it makes so much sense! Not just to ask Jesus to take this battle from me, but to ask Him to step into it WITH me...because He can't stand in front of me unless I invite Him into the battle.

It's about free will; we have to participate in the battle. We can't call in someone else and then walk away. We have to be present, too. Jesus will fight the battle, but if we're not engaged, no matter how many enemies He banishes, more will keep coming. We have to learn how to grow in virtue and moral strength in order to turn back the smaller attacks so as to avoid being wounded in the first place.

The advice from the dream just resonates with me....invite Jesus. Invite Jesus.

And the most striking thing; the message wasn't just to invite Jesus into the temptation and the sin, but more importantly...invite Jesus into the pain.

We are all bleeding...and only He can heal us. And it's our woundedness that compromises us in the first place. Invite Him.

He's the only one who can stop the oncoming tank.
*

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

How true! We often forget that we NEED to be present with God in our battles. It's so easy to say 'okay, God, now you handle it' and we walk away.

It is so much more difficult to be present in the midst of the temptation & trial because we know we are still accountable for our actions. If we leave, it's like telling God, 'I didn't do it' when in fact, He KNOWS better!

And how awesome is our God to allow us to make mistakes in our humanity, yet love us so much to take us back at the moment of our Confession.

btw - Excellent analogy with Saving Private Ryan!

LM

smk said...

Absolutely on target, beautiful and timely. Thank you!

Fr. V said...

Yes,
I find when I struggle the most is when I am trying to white - knuckle it. Then it finally dawns on me (Oh yeah, pray for a little help) and things get better.

How many times need I learn this lesson?

Wayne said...

Great lesson, Adoro and well put! I'm reminded of my experience working with the "troubled teen" population. Often times we had to physically intervene in fights with two or more of the students, and sometimes we were able to catch it before it happened, but the only way that was most successful was by literally stepping in between the two fighters. You could try to jump in and hold back the student by the waste, but sometimes they were just too squirmy or strong to stop them. However, by positioning yourself right in between the two, you not only are able to control the fight but you have also taken away the visible temptation to fight.

In the same way it seems asking Jesus to just take away our temptation is like asking him to jump in from behind and try to pull it away and sometimes those temptations are too strong or squirmy. However, when we invite Him in to fight on our side, He is able to meet the temptation head on which is always a more successful approach.

Thanks for this!

Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks, everyone.

Wayne, I used to work with troubled kids, too, and I know exactly what you mean with that analogy!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Well, I don't know about your prayer life being dry, but your blog life has been very strong lately. Is the blog a form of prayer? I wonder.

Anyway, Padre Pio gets my vote for the Saint with Our Lady in your dream.

Monte said...

Last weekend I texted a prayerful friend and asked her to napalm the enemy around me. She was headed for the Air Force at one time and has a definite warrior mentality. So, she knew I needed some air support like you write about. And coming from heaven is even better than from an F-16!

After action report: Enemy completely suppressed and routed!

Monte