Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Don't Want to Do This Anymore

Yesterday, I finished facilitating an 8-week study on The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Larraine Bennett.  We were a small group on this final day, but I learned two big lessons. 

The first thing the ladies taught me is that for some people, life is really hard, most of the time.  It's hard for a lot of reasons.  They can't get out of their head.  They want perfection from themselves and other people, and when they don't get it, they're impatient and unkind, which makes them feel worse about a situation they already felt crappy about.  This spiral repeats itself mercilessly, and often seems impossible to break out of.  They carry guilt for all sorts of reasons, including shortcomings in motherhood, feeling like they should be something or someone other than who they are, and not praying well or enough.  A thought that surfaces all-too-often is "I don't want to do this anymore."  After saying this out loud,  reassurances come quickly about not really being suicidal.  But, that doesn't mean it isn't an occasional fantasy.

The second thing they taught me, is that there are more of them than there are of me.  I am generally happy-go-lucky, go-along-to-get-along, and find more joy in life than anything else.  In a word, I am content.  Thanks to the insight of a trusted friend, I learned that while this is great for me, it's a mixed bag for them.  I am a spot of sunshine on a cloudy day, but I also frustrate them and add to their burden.  They wonder what they're doing wrong, and why they don't have the peace that seems to come so easily to me.  I hate this, and am tempted to crawl into a hole because of it.  But, as my friend pointed out, that would be the plan of the devil, exactly.  So, I have to focus on how I can help rather than hurt them.

As it turns out, much of our individual perspectives goes back to the temperament we were born with.  They are "melancholic" and I am "sanguine".  I don't understand why God made us so differently, but I suspect it has something to do with needing each other.  Because I know we do.  I also know that "perfection consists in doing the will of God, not in understanding His designs".

Even though our differences seem great, our commonality is greater, and I want to encourage all who share in the struggle of daily living.  No matter what our temperament is, we have to persevere.  Nobody is getting to Heaven without PERSEVERANCE.  Period. 

I can't find the quote just now, but we must not allow ourselves to be disappointed or surprised at what we are (or are not) capable of at any moment.  We are human, we are sinners, and we will fail continually until we die.  I'm sorry for this hard truth, but the thing about truth is that it doesn't go away.  At the moment we realize we're doing the very thing we intended not to do, or not doing the very thing we resolved to do, we must begin again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  Furthermore, we must do all of this "beginning again" without wasting time and energy wondering how on earth we allowed whatever we allowed.  If we are ever disappointed with or surprised at ourselves, then we have overestimated our capability at the outset, and that is pride! 

"In trying to do anything, we 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 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 even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.  The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection."  Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis

The other secret to thriving day by day, is the PRESENT MOMENT.

"There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed.  All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action."

"The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation...'The power of the most High shall over-shadow thee (Luke 1:35), said the angel to Mary.  This shadow, beneath which is hidden the power of God for the purpose of bringing forth Jesus Christ in the soul, is the duty, the attraction, or the cross that is presented to us at each moment."

"The present is ever filled with infinite treasure, it contains more than you have the capacity to hold...We can no longer consider our moments as trifles since in them is a whole kingdom of sanctity and food for angels."

"In the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment.  In this the soul is light as a feather, liquid as water, simple as a child, active as a ball in receiving and following all the inspirations of grace."

"What courage would they not derive from the thought that to acquire the friendship of God, and to arrive at eternal glory, they had but to do what they were doing, but to suffer what they were suffering, and that what they wasted and counted as nothing would suffice to enable them to arrive at eminent sanctity:  far more so than extraordinary states and wonderful works.

Abandonment to Divine Providence, Jean Pierre de Caussade

Just as we need perseverance and the present moment to triumph in the dailiness of life, there are two things we don't need.

1.  Guilt.  It has to go.  It paralyzes.  We need to shed it like a coat on a summer day.  It is not what God wants for us, and we are deluded to think it somehow pleases God to carry it around:  Say "YES to realizing that carrying guilt is a greater sin than the failures that caused it...that it negates all Christ paid to set us free."  YES, Ann Kiemel

"Whenever you feel guilty, even if it is because you have consciously committed a sin, a serious sin, something you have kept doing many times, never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you.  My beloved, may every fall...always become for us a small step toward a higher degree of perfection." ~Maximilian Kolbe

2.  Being critical of others:  "If God has not transformed a person, It is because He puts up with Him as he is!  He waits with patience the opportune moment.  Why be more demanding and impatient than God?" Searching For and Maintaining Peace, Jacques Phillipe

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor's souls and come to their rescue.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbor's needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all...
~Sister Faustina

Dear God of All Four Temperaments, Thank you for the study we just finished, the fun and growth we had on the way, and most especially the friendships that budded in the process.  Thank you for safe places where being yourself is encouraged and being vulnerable is okay.  Lord, please bless all of those whose everyday living is hard.  When you see and hear those "I don't want to do this anymore" thoughts, please dissipate them with Your Love.  Encourage and sustain them.  Please give us all the grace of perseverance!  And, finally, please help us find You continually in the present moment, under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed.  Amen.


  1. I love you, Heidi Dixon! Your blog is a blessing to me!

  2. I love you, Heidi Dixon! Your blog is a blessing to me!