On whatever step of our spiritual development we are, the first thing which is required of us is that we should be true to ourselves: not to try to be anyone except the person we are; not to try to mimic any behavior, to force ourselves into any mould in heart, in mind, in will which could be a lie before God, to ourselves, a deception for others. The first rule is to be true to ourselves; and to be true with all the integrity, all the passion, all the joy of which we are capable.
Time and time and again I am asked by people: “What is the Will of God for me now, in the nearest future?” And I always refuse to speak in God’s own Name, because I believe that all I, or any priest, can do is to stand before God in awe, and say, “Lord, Thou art the Truth, Thou art Life, Thou art also the Way: teach this person, be to this person the Way, enlighten this person with the truth, and bring him to such plenitude of life as no one can either convey or give.”
And yet there are things which can be done. Each of us is a free man of God, as St. Paul said clearly. He says there was a time when we all were slaves of Satan, slaves of our passions, of our fears, slaves of all the things that press on all sides and do not allow us to be true people. In Christ freedom is granted; not license, but the freedom to be ourselves, the freedom to grow into the fullness of the stature which God has dreamt for us, to grow into fullness that will make us truly living members of the Body of Christ, partakers of the Divine Nature.
On whatever step of our spiritual development we are, the first thing which is required of us is that we should be true to ourselves: not to try to be anyone except the person we are; not to try to mimic any behavior, to force ourselves into any mould in heart, in mind, in will which could be a lie before God, to ourselves, a deception for others. The first rule is to be true to ourselves;
and to be true with all the integrity, all the passion, all the joy of which we are capable. And what does this mean?
Apart from what I said a moment ago, it means that we must find who we are not only socially, but at another level. To do this, we can read the Gospel which is an image of what a true human being is. The Gospel is not a book of commandments, of orders, as it were, given by God, “Do this, and you will be right in My sight” — no: it is a picture of what a real human being thinks, feels, does and is. Let us look into the Gospel as one looks into a mirror, and we will discover that in so many ways we are a distorted image, but that in a few ways perhaps, we are a true human being already, at least potentially. Let us mark those passages of which we can say, like Luke and Cleophas on the way to Emmaeus: Does not my heart burn within me when I hear, when I read these words? How beautiful they are! How true! That is life!. And if you find one passage or another to which you respond in this way, rejoice. At that point God has reached you at the deepest level of your being, revealed to you who you truly are; but at the same time He has revealed to you Who He truly is. He has shown to you that you and He are in harmony; that if you only become what you already, potentially, truly are, you will become (an image) of God; a true undistorted image; at least in one or two things.
Then there is another move: if we want to be truly ourselves, we must remember that God does not expect us to be what we are not, but what we are. That we can stand before God, and say to Him, “Lord! I have read this and that in the Gospel; I understand it with my mind; I believe in my heart that it must be true; but it does not set my mind aglow, my heart on fire; it does not stir my will, it does not transform me yet. Accept me as I am! I will change, but for the moment I cannot respond to such a commandment, to such an example.” There is a passage so beautiful, to me, in the writings of St. Mark the Ascetic in which he says, “If God stood before you, and said, Do this, and do that — and your heart could not answer ‘Amen’ — then don’t do it; because God does not need your action: He needs your consent, and harmony between Him and you.”
Let us therefore try when we ask ourselves – “where do I already stand?” – in an attempt to find out what the Will of God is for us, not in the absolute, but now. What can I already now be and do, and do it wholeheartedly with God? — because in the end, the aim of our spiritual life, of our life and our faith in Christ does not consist in being drilled into doing one thing rather than the other; it is to establish between God and us a relationship of true friendship, of a joy of mutual freedom, and within this freedom, within this friendship, in response to God’s love, to God’s respect for us, to the faith He has in us, to the hope He has vested in us, and say “This person has understood that he is not a slave, that he is My friend” — and He is our friend. What a joy! And it is a gift of God, which we can give Him as we received it from Him! Amen.
METROPOLITAN ANTHONY OF SOUROZH
Source: Saint Barbara Orthodox Church