Good morning! A wonderful meditation from Jeanine:
I have not opened my personal/spiritual journal in quite a while, but I used to write almost every day. If I had been writing recently, maybe I would have said . . .
March 30, 2008 (Third Sunday in Lent – Veneration of the Cross)
I’ve been Orthodox almost a year now and I don’t know who I am anymore. It was much easier for me to be an evangelical Protestant. When I compare myself to the other women in my church, I feel like such a spiritual midget. I can’t answer questions about the Orthodox faith like them, I don’t know how to pray like them and I certainly can’t sing like them. I can’t cook meals during Lent and I don’t have a clue how to make a Pascha basket. Where am I? Why have You brought me here? Is this something I can really do? Maybe I should just go to church on Sundays and be satisfied with that. I don’t think Peter knows I cried myself to sleep last night …
April 2, 2008 (Tuesday)
An idiot driver just about side-swiped me today on the way to work! I can’t stand people who drive really slow and then wander over into another lane like they are taking a stroll in a meadow or something. How hard is it to pay attention?! Why can’t everyone do what I do?!
My boss needed a file today and we looked in the staff cabinets to find it. She FINALLY noticed the horrible state of the filing system and said, “Now I know why you are having a hard time finishing the filing project I gave you.” I’m SO glad she saw for herself the horrible state in which “you-know-who” left everything. It’s a disaster! I could never work like that. My boss is extremely pleased with the way I’ve re-done her own files. “You-know-who” had absolutely no organization skills. The team has noticed, too; some of them have made comments about how I always know where everything is and am really efficient and tidy. I have my performance review soon and am quite sure I’ll get a good rating.
April 4, 2008 (Friday)
I know that comparing myself to my Orthodox sisters led me to discouragement and despair last weekend. Don’t really want to go back there. I want to remember what my friend Bob the Tomato in VeggieTales says, “God made you special and He loves you very much.” That means that I have something special to offer to the community of faith that no one else has. Will You show me what it is? Will you help me to offer it?
I know that speaking harshly against a stranger is wrong because James 4:12 says, “Who are you to judge another?” I have no idea what the woman driving that SUV was thinking or feeling when she almost smashed into me. And comparing myself to “you-know-who” is total pride. St. Basil the Great said, “Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners.” I really have to get over myself (yes, and go to confession!).
But, Papa, is it ALWAYS wrong to compare myself to someone else? How will I improve if I don’t look at others as a sort of benchmark? I need to see how another sister worships and prays in order to learn. I need to see that I’m better at something in order to help someone else improve. Ah – “in order to learn.” “In order to help…” Motive. Humility. Love. When I have the proper attitude, comparison will lead to improvement, not to despair and not to pride.
When I compare myself to Christ with the proper attitude, I will be humbled and I will truly worship. Which is the whole point.
The Forty Maxims
- 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
- 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
- 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
- 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
- 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
- 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
- 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
- 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
- 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
- 10. Be faithful in little things.
- 11. Do your work, then forget it.
- 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
- 13. Face reality.
- 14. Be grateful.
- 15. Be cheerful.
- 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
- 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
- 18. Listen when people talk to you.
- 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
- 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
- 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
- 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
- 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
- 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
- 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
- 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
- 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
- 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
- 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
- 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
- 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
- 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
- 33. Be strict with yourself.
- 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
- 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
- 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
- 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
- 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
- 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
- 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.