Trials and Temptations

Why is it that we are never tempted in the area of our strengths, but only in that of our weaknesses? Does the nature of the temptation (or trial) have something to say about our ‘soul-work’- that aspect of our nature that is engaged in the process of continual transformation? Our lives are not some script with scenes that can be edited, or repeated two or three times until we get them right. Each encounter leaves us changed so that we can never return to a place of innocence. I think that God allows us to be tempted in those areas that are uniquely our own ‘achilles heel’. For some the temptations are obvious, and for others, ever so subtle. Every horticulturalist knows that a tree grows strongest when it is facing into the wind. How often do I compare myself or my situation with those of others? Perhaps not so much now at this juncture of my life, but certainly when I was younger. Weighed in the scales of some invisible standard and found wanting. Perhaps if I could endure some trial and emerge filled with virtue, like the saints and prophets of Joan of Arc, or the Baal Shem Tov, then maybe my life would find its purpose and meaning. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the strong. So it is not into an arena of safety and secure confidence that I am sent into, but I am sent trembling, into the den of lions, into the furnace of fire, not having read the last page of the chapter or even knowing that there is indeed an ending. In fact, pressure, stress, and ‘natural selection’ if you will, seem to be ways of God ‘upping the ante’. The dross, as embarassing as it is, bubbles to the surface while all look on- shocked by the utter humanness of it all. We are created in the Divine image- and what does that say about the Divine One? Oh that we would embrace Your character, that we would be Imitato Dei. But do we really want to embrace You in Your terrible Entirety? For that means embracing the God who opens the earth to swallow the worshippers of the golden calf. It means cleaving to the One who is not only Redeemer, but Rex Tremendae, who judges in truth, while being slow to anger and quick in mercy. I contemplate the notion that we are here to complete a specific act of repair in the universe. Perhaps when my mission is complete, I am allowed to die- but it is not up to me to define the parameters of my existence. Nor is it my place to choose the tools of my ‘perfecting in the ways of holiness’. I trust that the way is not hidden from those who want to follow You. In the meantime, those daily little annoyances reveal more about my own need to grow in grace, in patience, in love for others. Even my indignation at the ringing phone, and my irrational desire to pick it up and throw it out the window is a gentle reminder to give in, to give out, to not withhold and draw back into isolation- my usual modus operandi. Burnout is a terrible thing- a robber of joy. But as Adrian Plass says- nothing is wasted.

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