So sour candy is *literally*the best. Yes, yes, I’m an adult and I can eat dark chocolate covered fruit things like the adult I am, without a single limitation except you know, my pants. But sour candy, particularly if I’m working on a project, is where it is at. The problem is that, as we all learned at 11, sour candy fries your tongue. In particular, Warheads are the most evil candy ever. Being an adult, however, no one can place arbitrary limitations on me like “only have two,” or “your tongue will dissolve,” or “I’m not buying those because last time that ended up with you in a fetal position.”
Consequently, as an adult, I made the rational, independent, free decision to eat an entire bag of Warhead candy. I was almost done, and I ate a green apple one, not even near the level of black cherry. Immediately, however, I realized something had gone horribly awry, based on the fact that I was shouting and I could taste blood in my mouth. But would I spit out my candy? No. I’m a grown up dang it, and I will eat the delicious sour candy, even though it makes me want to literally cut out my own tongue.*
So let’s talk about sin.
Sin, much like sour candy, sucks. Certainly, grace is needed in order to overcome it, and there are things we can do to help ourselves accept the grace God offers us (moved of course, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit). However, I think that sometimes that can sound an awful lot like “wait around and keep doing this thing and then God will fix it at Last Rites.” Which isn’t really how we should be thinking about the whole sin/grace/universal call to holiness/becoming a saint thing.
Part, I think, of not falling into sin is being aware of what is going on in our own souls. This can be rather hard at times, because I’m an excellent liar when it comes to my own faults. For example: one sour candy hurts, thirty sour candies draw blood. Yet, I still ate the darn candy, because I intentionally decided to ignore the context in which I was eating the candy, for the sake of the deliciousness of it. Moreover, let’s be honest: who doesn’t like delicious sour candy?
Sin, I’ve noticed is like this. Who doesn’t just want to let their emotions out in a loud, well-directed insult? Who doesn’t want to kiss their significant other just a “little” longer? Who doesn’t want to hate that moron on the website who is just so wrong? Who doesn’t want to relay a funny story, even if it is probably insulting? Who doesn’t want to refuse to forgive when someone hurt us? Let’s be really honest. We’ve all had one of these thoughts, or something similar to them.
It is so easy to excuse such sins, in light of the immediate good we want, whether that is release (of our anger or of the sexual kind) or laughter (even at the expense of another), or righteous justice (even if we will be forgiven as we forgive others). Moreover, it’s easy to identify sin as “anything which doesn’t involve a dead body and even then, just war theory.”
As my gal St. Teresa of Avila wrote,
It is very human to let pass unnoticed what is constantly before our eyes.
So, if any of us hope to make it to Heaven, we have to keep these little, excusable sins before our eyes, so that we can ask God for those graces we actually need. Otherwise, we put ourselves in a world of hurt far greater than literally scouring our tongues with sour tasting acid stuff. Which, I’m going to be honest, is not even a supposedly fun thing. It’s just a thing I really want to never do again.
How can we keep the little sins, and their contexts, before our eyes?As my college spiritual director, Fr. Paul, told me the first time I sought him out for spiritual direction, “A good place to start is a nightly examination of your conscience.” Which I did with super good diligence in those ten seconds before I crashed. And I still wasn’t murdering anyone, so I guess there was that.
My college roommate/bff, LB, had known of my struggles with confession and examinations of conscience (as a convert, this topic was just not really explained well in terms of how to actually do it, though in theory it makes sense). Knowing this, for my 21st birthday, she bought me a book called Progress in Divine Union by Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J.** When a book starts out with the line “either we have or have not committed grave sins. Whatever the case may be, the necessity for self-conquest confronts us,” you know it is going to be good.
Fr. Plus compares our souls, particularly those of us who have sinned (which means all of us), need to be aware of the psychology of habit. He gives the example of a folded piece of paper—it keeps falling into those same folds again and again until we intentionally fold it a different way. When it comes to souls, the intentional education of our souls to virtue (folding back), particularly virtue when it contrasts with our small, constant sins, means training in sacrifice. Particularly, it means training in those sacrifices that directly run contrary to our sins.
However, we only know these sins when we are honest about the source. Fr. Plus explains that “the examen makes us enter into ourselves, not to find ourselves, but to help us make a place or God.” He suggests that we
Cast a glance over the things that attract us or amuse us, or interest us as relaxation or subject matter for discussion.
Which sounds odd at first; ultimately, however, by glancing over these things, we begin to see what we are doing with our less attended to moments. Are we killing time looking at things that anger or entice us online? Are we amusing ourselves with gossip or self-righteous in-fighting? Are we discussing our anger at the actions of another? And what faults lie beneath the small faults in how we spend our time?
This might sound like mindfulness, but I think it’s better described as attentiveness, or intentionality. When we notice the things we do, particularly our areas where we need spiritual growth in virtue, we live our lives with the intentions of knowing what graces we need so that we can ask God for those graces and cooperate with grace to become saints.
So don’t sweep the small stuff under the rug. Ask God to help you be more aware of what you are and aren’t doing in your life. Ask for the graces to make sacrifices and educate your soul in sanctity. Pay attention to the little things: after all, a small candy can have (personally) unintended consequences in reality, particularly when chose to ignore the consequences in the moment. If you don’t believe me, try for yourself. But, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Image via pexels.com
*This is a desire, however, which I will not literally actualize.
**She also, for the record, bought me a peach bellini.