I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for a magic bullet to bring me closer to God. Let’s be honest: the Christian life can be a slog. Day in, day out, struggling against sin and making little measurable progress. I’m always looking for the secret to help me reach sanctity faster. But is there one?
St. Therese asked herself this same question. She sought a fast way to climb the ladder to Heaven, as it were. The Little Way of Spiritual Childhood was her discovery. She said that if she made herself little, Jesus could lift her up in His arms. His arms would be her elevator to help her advance quickly.
Why am I still not a saint?
But there is a catch. As much as we might think the Little Way means Jesus does all the work for us, we still have to strive against ourselves. The Little Way is not magic. We can’t just say a few words and be instant saints.
This is challenging. When I first committed myself to daily mental prayer, I thought I had found the magic bullet. After all, St. John of the Cross said that people who devote themselves to prayer “very soon” enter the dark night of the senses and the illuminative way.
But I have been praying faithfully for over twenty years now, and I’m still not there. What gives?
Last year I discovered St. Therese’s doctrine of trust. Well, really rediscovered it, because I had heard it many times. I just hadn’t lived it well. I thought trust was the thing that would make me an instant saint. It hasn’t happened yet.
I’m now realizing that I need to get back to detachment as well. John and Therese both assume detachment in their doctrines. And detachment is decidedly not magic. It’s hard work.
The Christian life is a marriage of God and the soul
God is too good to make me a saint without my participation. He respects me too much. He gave me a mind and a heart so that I could use them to come close to Him. He made them good, they were damaged by sin, and He redeemed them on the cross. Now He wants to sanctify them completely.
As parents, we know that our goal is to help our children grow into self-sufficient adults. We can’t do everything for them. And God does not do everything for us. And yet, in one way, He does.
God gives us the will to follow Him. He gives us the strength. He forgives us when we fail. He carries us when we can’t carry ourselves. Then He rewards us as though we’ve done it all.
But He will not tolerate our laziness. He won’t accept our excuses for not trying. He will not overlook unrepentant sin. He will not pry away our attachments against our will.
God wants to form a partnership with us. He wants us to be His Bride. God and the soul must work together. In other words, God will only sanctify as much of my heart and mind that I willingly give Him.
So, I must struggle against sin, peacefully, in His joy and love. I must be willing to accept His forgiveness. I must be willing to follow His lead. And I must be willing to wait, no matter how long it takes.
Love is better than magic.