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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Imitation of Christ Wk 6 of 10

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ Week 6 of 10

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The Anguish of Envy

He who has received less ought not to become dejected, nor become angry, nor envious of the one who has received more. Rather, he should look to You and praise Your great goodness since You have bestowed Your good portion picture1gifts so freely, so willingly, so lavishly, and without respect of persons.

All good things come from You and, therefore, You are to be praised in all things. 

You know what is best for each of us, and the reason You grant more to one and less to another is not for us to comprehend. this is for You to decide since You alone know each one’s merits.

Therefore, O God, I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Chapter 22, p. 109-110.

 

I need to take a deep breath here because thus far I have not considered it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor.

Quite the contrary – I spend a lot more time dejected, angry or envious of the one who has received more.

Yes, I know. Jealousy is an UGLY sin and it does more to destroy our hearts and souls than does anything else.

Here’s where my problems begin. I am a perfectionist. Not a “perfect” perfectionist – a “wanna-be” perfect perfectionist. (Is there any other kind?) The irony is that I WANT to be GREAT at EVERYTHING, but in reality, I’m not particularly good at anything – materially or spiritually. Regardless, in both areas, I find myself comparing my lack of gifts with the beautiful gifts I see in others.

Material Struggles

I spin a lot of plates, but none of them looks particularly fancy. Sometimes I find myself wishing I had at least one piece of gorgeous china that reflected the sun as it spun, like a million tiny mirrors, causing passers-by to stop and stare. (You know – WOW!- look at that amazing wife…perfect mother…fabulous writer…) But no. No Wedgwood here. Just plain white Corelle. And yet, I covet the china of others, and wonder why I have to settle for less.

Perhaps plate-spinning itself is a problem. Sometimes I feel like the Cat in the Hat: “I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake! I can hold up these books! And the fish on the rake! I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man! And look! With my tail I can hold a red fan…” Well, we all know how things turned out for him!

But no.  Plate-spinning is not the problem.  Apparently, I am the problem.  As I struggle through my juggling act, diving for this plate or stretching for that one, I notice the lady next to me is a professional “dish spinner.” This is the woman who’s written five bestselling books while holding down a full-time job, running a household, and homeschooling her children! I’m sure you’ve met her! She’s the one whose eight children all entered the religious life!

And I think…WHY?! WHY CAN’T I BE LIKE HER?! WHY CAN’T I SPIN MY DISHES BETTER? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?!

Spiritual Struggles

My RADAR is on high alert as to every flaw and defect in my own character. While that might be considered a good thing in spiritual circles – thinking back to Spiritual Combat here – it’s magnified every time I see someone who shines in areas where I am lacking. My eyes and ears are CONSTANTLY studying those that have received more grace in one area or another so I can emulate their “good” traits. Yes, that could be a positive too; but – here’s the negative – I spend MORE time berating myself than I do actually changing my character to reflect the virtues of others.

Case in point. I was out of town visiting a good friend recently – I know, you’re reading this, M______, so today you get to read how much I think of you – and while we were on our way out the door to her son’s soccer tournament, a really cheap faux pearl necklace I was wearing broke. As soon as the necklace dropped off my neck, she didn’t skip a beat! Right away, she said – with enthusiasm – “Oh! We can stop at the jewelers on our way – I know of one really close and I’ll bet they can fix that for you easily!” When I declined, she assured me that it would be no hassle at all and she’d be more than pleased to do it (knowing she had about 30 minutes to get where she was going, and probably a 20+ minute drive).

This is only one of a thousand examples I could give you of small acts of kindness I’ve experienced from various people over the past month. But I thought about this experience for DAYS!!!! Why? Because the ugly fact is that had the tables been turned, I would have said something profound like, “Bummer!” I KNOW that I would NEVER have even thought of offering to have her necklace fixed.

So why did I think about this for DAYS? Not for any spiritual benefit. Quite the contrary.

When things like this happen, I become Wanda Whiner, asking myself, – WHY IS IT NATURAL FOR SOME PEOPLE TO THINK OF OTHERS FIRST AT ALL TIMES, BUT IT IS NOT NATURAL FOR ME???!!!! And of course, I spend a good amount of time asking God that same question.

In a nutshell, I waste a lot of my life away asking God:

“WHY DID YOU MAKE ME THIS WAY? WHY CAN’T I BE MORE LIKE ____ OR _____?”

How to bring a stop to this insanity that keeps me from achieving the holiness I desire? Thomas à Kempis has it all figured out – PRAISE and GRATITUDE. He’s right. If I were to spend half as much time offering PRAYERS OF PRAISE and THANKSGIVING as I do saying UGGHHHH!, I’d find peace.

And I don’t mean prayers to the other extreme, like those of the Pharisee in the temple: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” I mean prayers that are simply and humbly THANKFUL. Prayers that acknowledge my weakness and God’s glory with gratitude.

Even more importantly, (and more challenging) I need to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all the graces He’s lavished upon others.

I was particularly moved this week by the four choices that à Kempis promises will bring peace and rest (two things which are often lacking in my life):

 

Always strive….to do another’s will rather than your own.
Always choose to have less rather than more.
Always seek the lowest place and be submissive in all things.
Always desire and pray that God’s will be entirely fulfilled in you.

– The Imitation of Christ, p. 111.

 

None of these things can be accomplished by comparing myself to another Catholic, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend or writer. I can do these things only by being grateful for the benefits (or even the lack of benefits) God has seen fit to grant me at this time in my life. Through prayer, humility and surrender, perhaps at some point, I will be able to pray with à Kempis that I consider it a great blessing not to have many of those goods that in men’s eyes and in outward appearance call for praise and honor.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you compare yourself to others?  What can one do to stop that problem in its tracks?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 7: Book 3 Ch. 33-43

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: https://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

 

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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