Here’s another bit of wisdom from one of my favorite Anglican spiritual directors from the last century:
“It is the soul, the centre of our being, of which the will is the authentic voice, which chooses to sin. For this reason the real measure of every sin is the amount of choice which produced it, and this will include not only the choice at the moment of that sin but also the many choices which have led up to that final choice and prepared the way for it.” (Ward, Reginald Somerset. A Guide for Spiritual Directors. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd, 1957, p. 13.)
How we use that little power of our will says a lot about us. We often have far less will power than we think, but much more will freedom than we realize. It is the little “yeses” and “noes” that enable us to abide in the kingdom of Jesus and strengthen our willingness or to hide and abide in our own willfulness. Our own kingdom is not a place of abundance, but a place of scarcity, self-protection and self-promotion. There is no good and holy overflow when I abide in my own vision, my own wisdom, my own plan, or my own way.
This counsel from Ward also leads me to see the great value of living awake and attentive to the thoughts, especially the automatic and semi-conscious ones, that I have at any moment. Recent reading in brain theory as it relates to addiction has reaffirmed the value of simply noticing my thoughts from just a little bit of distance. Instead of assuming that I am my thoughts, I learn that I am a person who has thoughts, and that these thoughts come from a number of sources. Some may be gifts of a loving Father or echoes of my truest self. Some may be traps of an enemy and whispers of my lesser self. When I am not awake to my thoughts, but instead letting them pull me about without discernment, I find myself surprised to be in places I wouldn’t consciously wish to be.
- What little choices are you making that are either growing your freedom of soul or diminishing it?
- How do you want to offer your “willing” up to the good, beautiful and true will of God?
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