A Carmelite nun, Sister Rachel, still living, wrote this (a few years ago) in one of her books.
“Some may feel that I speak too often of sin, rub it in too much. Others point out that what we need is encouragement, we are too aware already of our own miseries.
“But are we?
“Often what we are meaning and what we are confusing with an awareness of sin is being disgusted with ourselves, being disillusioned with ourselves, which every human being suffers from. We have an image in our mind’s eye of what we are like, or would want to be like, or think we are really meant to be like, and we fall short of it. We ‘lose face’ in our own eyes, and perhaps in the eyes of others. What we bewail is largely our human poverty, and this our Lord has no intention of taking away.”
What is this Carmelite nun trying to say to us? That we are more concerned with the image we have of ourselves than with the actual sins we commit. Yet, for Sister Rachel (Ruth Burrows is her pen name), an awareness of seeing where real sin lies is part of the journey toward holiness—because this kind of an awareness carries with it the certainty of forgiveness.
And I think this is where we get caught up in the struggle, or the frustration: We want God to make our weaknesses go away so we don’t have to struggle with them (and sin) anymore. But I don’t think God is going to do that. He’s not too willing to remove from us the things that humble us. And he doesn’t want to do this for a reason: The Lord wants us to see our sinfulness in the light of His mercy. In this lies the core of our growing deeper in our relationship with God through the forgiveness of His Son who went to the cross for our sins.
Another frustration comes from dealing with the question of time. How long do I have to put up with this? How long do I have to struggle with this? When will this suffering come to an end? We hear this morning: “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay”, but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” But God’s sense of time and ours is not the same. God’s sense of “enough” and ours is not the same.
So, during Advent, in the peace and quiet of the Winter’s chill, ask Jesus to help you to stop looking in the mirror wondering why you have fallen short of your own expectation of yourself, and look squarely and honestly and what it is you have done wrong—as painful and humbling as that might be! There’s definitely a spiritual good that comes from this.
I’ll let Sister Rachel (Ruth Burrows) have the final say:
“Come and enlighten us, Sun of holiness. Show us our sloth, our pride, our shirking of the demands of life, our evasions. Reveal to us our sinfulness in the light of your mercy, and then we shall be healed and know perfect joy.”