'I Want to See'
By Marian Friedrichs (Oct 17, 2011)
"Jesus, Supreme Light, grant me the grace of knowing myself, and pierce my dark soul with Your light, and fill the abyss of my soul with Your own self ... I beg You to keep me close to You as a mother holds a baby to her bosom, for I am not only a helpless child, but an accumulation of misery and nothingness" (Diary of St. Faustina, 297, 298).
Like St. Faustina, I've asked God for "the grace of knowing myself," but unlike her, I haven't always meant it. I have just enough awareness of myself, and just enough experience reading the Diary, to know that the answer to my prayer would involve an in-depth look at my "misery and nothingness," and my ego is one of those swaggering bullies whose cowardice is in proportion to its size. To join wholeheartedly in the saint's prayer, I would have to climb out of my self-built, carefully fortified boat; and with faith that could barely stand comparison to the tiniest of mustard seeds, part of me isn't sure I won't sink.
The second of the Twelve Steps taken by members of Alcoholics Anonymous is "[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity." When we imagine we're helping ourselves by doing things repeatedly that only hurt us, our actions are insane. For an alcoholic, that insanity means continuing to drink. For me, it means clinging to my flimsy little boat in the middle of a storm while Jesus is beside me, holding out His arms, offering to carry me to heaven.
As an alcoholic is hooked on alcohol, I'm hooked on the delusion that I should be able to do everything, know everything, and understand everything, and that if I just try hard enough, I'll never make a single mistake again. I already believe that only God can heal me of that blindess, but to be honest, the images that my darkness has tricked me into seeing are so enticing that I don't really want to let Him. If He makes me sane, I'll lose the mouth-watering hallucinations of myself as an all-powerful being who doesn't need to take step three: "Turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."
But while on the outside my human pride appears to be a formidable Goliath, on the inside, it's a trembling child afraid of what might be hiding in the shadows. That's the catch to keeping ourselves in the dark: It's scary. When I try to depend on my own sight and instead of seeing myself through God's eyes, I know I'm putting my faith in something uncertain, flawed and deeply fragile. That makes me terrified. My soul longs to call out with Bartimaeus, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me ... I want to see" (Lk 18:38, 41), for in the end I know that the only way to stop being afraid of what I can't see is to get up and turn on the light.
I've been praying for the grace to be able to do that — because even though it's my choice to open my eyes or remain blind, only grace can make me capable of choosing the light — and I believe that in a gradual, quiet way my prayers are being answered. Every night for the past few years I have said the Prayer for Daily Neglects before I fall asleep. That prayer offers the Sacred Heart to expiate the day's sins, purify the good that was done poorly, and atone for the good that ought to have been done but was neglected. I started saying the prayer because a sudden fear of purgatory (probably after reading too much Dante) made it seem urgent that I sponge each day clean. I lay in bed and said the prayer, looking through the cracked and cloudy lens of self-reliance at my sins and the good works I had sullied or left undone, and felt pretty dismal. I believed that I should have lived that day perfectly but hadn't, and now it was time for the scourging.
The problem with that perspective is that it ignores the fact that Jesus already took that scourging for me. If I insist on giving it to myself anyway, I'm rejecting His gift. Through the Prayer for Daily Neglects, Jesus makes up for my inevitable failings, so instead of groaning every night over them, I should joyfully give Him my burden of guilt. When I remember that, I'm seeing Him and myself clearly: He the Savior, I the saved.
Like the child who finally gets up to turn on the light, I find that this reality is not a bit scary. Yes, it shows me my nothingness, but it also shows me the beauty He wants to fill me with. God doesn't expect me to torture perfection out of myself. He just asks me to trust Him. When I accept enough grace to be able to do that, I find that I like the view better through His eyes.