Take Heart

  Original Artwork by Iris Rhein

Original Artwork by Iris Rhein

Sin is like Fig Newtons. I hate Fig Newtons. (Okay, hate is a strong word for a cookie; I dislike the taste of Fig Newtons.) It's not a very good cookie. But, for some reason, my taste buds are convinced I love Fig Newtons. I'm a little embarrassed by the number of times I have bought a pack of Fig Newtons, seriously convinced that “No, I'm going to like them this time. I swear I have a memory of them tasting good!”, only to bite in and be severely disappointed.

What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. - Romans 7:15

St. Paul probably wasn't writing about cookies, but I'm reminded of this verse when I think of my longstanding feud with Fig Newtons. I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.

I sin. A lot. I struggle to be patient and kind. I'm prone to road-rage. Like a fly to a light, I run back to my familiar sins over and over, often knowing I'm just going to get burned. There was a time in my life when I really struggled with resentment and bitterness. I'd been profoundly hurt by someone close to me and it left a gnawing mess of resentment. I knew I ought to forgive them, but I was angry and bitter. The offender was unrepentant, even unaware, of the wound they had inflicted. For months I prayed for the grace to simply desire to forgive them. Over and over I found myself going to the confessional saying, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have been harboring resentment towards ___.” My head might have understood what to do, but my heart remained stubborn. I grew frustrated with myself. Would I ever be able to heal from this?

I do not do what I want to, but I do what I hate.

The spiritual life is a struggle. My desire to do what is good clashes with my desire for what is not good. In the face of my constant failings, it's easy to get discouraged. “I'm always going to confession for the same sins. I'll never change. I should have been able to improve. I'm never good enough, there's always going to be someone better. I bet I'm the only one who can't get over this. I'm not strong enough.”  

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I often think of courage as another word for strength. A courageous person, I imagine, is like a wall. They stand tall and strong. Unmovable and unshaken, they exude strength and sheer willpower- like a firefighter rushing into a flaming building, a soldier gritting his teeth and trudging along, or knights charging headfirst into a sea of spears.

But I think, as women, we have a kind of courage that is soft. The root of the word "courage" is cor, or heart. Often courage is translated as "take heart." But whose heart am I taking?

Courage starts with acknowledging my own littleness. I am broken. I am sinful. I fail, over and over and over again. I am weak. But in the midst of my brokenness, Christ comes and offers His heart. When I am tired of failing over and over and over again, Christ is there with His strength. It is in Jesus that I can stand tall and proud. It is in Jesus that I find the strength to persevere; the courage to continue on.

So yes, I struggle. I still think Fig Newtons taste good. I still wrestle with discouragement.  But if discouragement means to lose heart, courage means taking the heart of Christ and letting Him be your strength. So, courage! Courage my dear sisters! Take heart.