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Be Careful What You Want

When I warn you" Be careful what you want," I am really warning myself. When you progress spiritually, you want others to make the progress you think you have made. You can become so enthusiastic that you actually do the devil’s work rather than God’s. This is a common marker of a soul that is newly converted to Christ. As a soul is rescued from the chasm that once separated it from its deepest desire to enjoy intimacy and belonging to the God of the universe, it can become overly enthusiastic to the point of being arrogant and dogmatic. This is an understandable experience, and with slight direction from a spiritually mature person can be channeled. It’s the mature soul who wants truth to transform lives that can become a nuisance. Teresa of Avila explains it this way:

At the beginning of the spiritual life a common temptation is for us to want everyone else to be extremely spiritual. It is not wrong to want this, but it may not be right to try to make it happen. …I discovered this for myself. When I attempted to induce others to pray, they would listen to what I had to say. When they then observed that I, the great practitioner of prayer, lacked certain virtues, they would be led astray.

In our efforts to follow Christ and see Him transform the lives of others, it is vital to look to Him and follow His leadership style. His style is to live out the truth perfectly and rely on the presence of God in the souls of men and women to connect to His teaching and follow His ways. I can’t live out the truth perfectly, but I can ask the Holy Spirit to help me in this area. I can keep my hands out of the souls of men and women I want to live holier and spiritually healthier lives and, like Jesus, trust that my work is done. When I attempt to go too far and meddle in souls, I end up doing the devil’s work.

That is why I say to myself and to you: "Be careful what you want." It is good to want souls to come to the love, joy and peace of experiencing a deeper connection to God. It is not so good to want to fix what you see is wrong. The best way to fix this problem and find balance is to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-6:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

You and I have enough sin in our own souls to keep us occupied. Jesus gives this advice to show us how to protect our souls. Too much meddling and you will end up being trampled and torn to pieces. Teresa of Avila gives some great practical advice:

Try to focus on the best in others and the worst in ourselves. This will blind us to their defects. Eventually, we may even think of them as better than ourselves. Now that is advice that will transform a soul—your own—and isn’t that what you really want?

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