The Freedom to Be Sinners, the Freedom to Become Saints

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By Claire Bordelon

I had a friend once who, having been turned down by a guy she was interested in dating, blithely said, “Well, if he doesn’t like me, we obviously don’t have much in common, because I love myself!”

I thought of that friend as I was reading this week’s chapter of Fr. Philippe’s Interior Freedom (check out last week’s post if you missed it) entitled “Accepting Ourselves.” There are three main points that Fr. Philippe makes in this section, all of which I suppose were working in my friend at that particular moment:

  1. God is realistic.
    Let’s face it – my life is not exactly glamorous. I’m a high school teacher living in South Louisiana studying literature and currently trying to resist the temptation to finish off the family-sized pack of Reese’s I told myself I’d bought for my students. Yes, I have grand visions of a life spent in spiritual progress and positive relationships and monumental moments, but, in reality, this is what I’ve got. God isn’t waiting to touch my life until I’ve retreated to the top of a mountain somewhere to contemplate His greater vision for my future – he does it in between fourth and fifth period when I’m running to the bathroom after chugging four cups of coffee and trying to avoid running over freshmen. He’s down here in the dirt with me because, well, the dirt is where I live. God knows my sin and is unafraid of it.

    The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.

    Accepting my own weaknesses is doing just that – letting God act on my sinful, small little life, and trusting that greatness will come of it.

  2. Accepting ourselves requires viewing ourselves through God’s perspective.  I suspect that the reason my friend had such high self-esteem was a result of her wonderful family and the fact that she was frequently surrounded by people who loved her. She was able to see herself the way that those who loved her most saw her; however, those looks, though tender and authentic, are nothing when compared to the divine vision of Christ, who sees us most realistically and loves us most ardently. The great gift of prayer, then, is to be offered a perspective of ourselves that is abundantly true, but also abundantly loving.
  1. We have the freedom to be sinners, the freedom to become saints.  An outgrowth of #2, seeing ourselves as God sees us, is that we become free (isn’t that what this whole project is about?). Our sins do not scandalize God; instead, this true vision gives us the freedom to be who we are – poor, low, confused, hopeful, bright, etc. Of course, this does not equate with the irresponsibility of sinning without fear of the consequences, but now, we are not crushed under the weight of our own mistakes, but free to acknowledge them and move forward, confident in God’s ability to work wonders within us, lowly sinners though we are. Such an attitude creates a feeling of relaxed acceptance of who we are that is commensurate with an intense, driving desire toward holiness.I’ll end this section with a beautiful quote from Fr. Philippe himself:

    One of the most  essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we find ourselves.

    Next week, Part 4: Accepting Suffering

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