The window of Eden in The Nave of Saint John’s Cathedral : evil is beautiful and majestic with wide wings and a purple body. In the first window, eve (an image of the wife of the Dean at the time in the 1920’s) was fully naked. The window on sin was set back to be redone with roses and hair covering those parts which men thought men might find an occasion for sin. Irony. (What would any church look like if everyone was getting the intimacy they want and repression did not warp so much of what we do and say!?)
A Chapter of a Rule of Life on Sin
“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”Nelson Mandela
I am a saint. I am a sinner who keeps on trying. I get up and I fall down and I get up and I fall down and I get up and I fall down. And that is my life in a nutshell. I sin and recover and sin again.
“The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest goods.” Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
And most of my sins are small ones. The obvious, big sins are either too much work now that I am in my 50’s, or too much trouble to execute. I could sin much more robustly when I was younger. And yet now my sins are the annoying little ones mostly, like a pebble in my shoe or like sand in soup because I forgot to rinse the leeks first. Just the results of carelessness: the unkind word, the “white” lie, the evening of television-watching (bad television with lots of commercials – not PBS!!) and over-promising because I am a six on the enneagram and am desperate for people to like me.
But then there are the good days (or more like hours) when I trust Jesus – truly trust that His love and Grace will be enough and that I need not struggle so much for earthly renown and glory. The irony is that when I do less, sleep more, eat well, meditate a bit – then I get re-connected to Jesus’ sweet call on my life, when I follow my own Rule of lIfe – well, that re-membering is enough to distract me from most sin rather than sin distracting me from goodness. As Martin Luther says, “The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”
And of course my sin teaches me things. Sin teaches me what I want. The key thing is to try to look directly at the sin – straight in its face and deep into its eye – and ask the question “What is underneath this sin? What is missing from your life that you would want to reach for this?” When I do that, I begin a conversation with the tempters and they feel listened to and they back down a bit, enough, that is, for me to drift away while they are congratulating themselves for having won my attention. By the time they look up, I am gone and I have learned what I need, and have begun to find what I need or set it aside.
My inner 1-6 year-old (Chuckie) is not sinning. He is busy simply trying to be loved and cherished. My inner 7-11 year-old (Chuck) sins mostly because he is not paying attention to the road-signs as he explores. My inner adolescent (Chas) seems to want to sin a lot. It is he I need to hold, tight, whispering that “all shall be well;” and whispering also that some of these sparkly things and people are not good for him. If I can hold Chas tight enough and long enough, he sleeps, for he is always tired from his longings and stresses.
I do not think you should get rid of your sin until you have learned what it has to teach you.” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life