I’ve been making my way through Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ since Michael and I received it as a wedding gift from a friend. There is a reason it is one of the bestselling and most-translated books of all time. There’s also a reason that I’ve had to digest it so slowly. It’s that rich.
Patience, mercy, and what those need to look like for different areas and people in my life has been on my heart lately. I read this passage on patience from The Imitation of Christ the other day, and it was exactly what I needed to hear this Advent. Don’t you love how God likes to do that? I thought I’d share.:)
Do not say: “I cannot tolerate these things from such a man nor should I have to put up with them. He has seriously hurt me and he has blamed me for things I never dreamed of doing. I shall gladly suffer reasonable criticism from someone else, though.” Such a thought is foolish, for it does not take into account the virtue of patience, nor him from whom patience will receive its reward. Instead, it dwells on personalities and the injuries they inflict.
He is not truly a patient person who is only willing to suffer as much as he chooses and from whom he pleases. The truly patient person does not care by whom he is tried, whether by his superior or by someone equal or inferior, whether by a good and holy person or by a perverse and worthless one. No matter how much or how often anything bad happens to him, and whatever creature in this world might be its cause, he takes it all from God’s hand gratefully and considers it a great gain, for nothing suffered for God’s sake, no matter how small it may be, goes without its reward.
So be prepared to fight if you want to have the victory. You cannot gain the crown of patience without a struggle. If you will not suffer, you refuse to be crowned, but if you want to be crowned, fight bravely and endure patiently. Without labor there is no rest; without struggle there is no victory.”
See what I mean?
What always helps me when I’m struggling with a relationship is to remember that other people in my life are very, very likely struggling to be patient with me at any given time. As much as I want to walk rightly, to love well, to be humble, and to give no offense…we are always going to rub others the wrong way. People perceive things differently. Good intentions offend. Thoughtlessness offends. Misunderstanding and miscommunication offend. People are all different and messy and complicated.
The beauty of all that rubbing each other the wrong way is that it smooths our edges and polishes us up beautifully before the Lord. None of us come out of the womb (as St. Josemaria Escriva says) as “a gold coin that everyone likes.” (Don’t you love that one?!)
It is inevitable that you should feel the rub of other people’s characters against your own. After all, you are not a gold coin that everyone likes. Besides, without that friction produced by contact with others, how would you ever lose those corners, those edges and projections — the imperfections and defects — of your character, and acquire the smooth and regular finish, the firm flexibility of charity, of perfection? If your character and the characters of those who live with you were soft and sweet like sponge-cake you would never become a saint.” (St. Josemaria Escriva in The Way, #20)
Isn’t St. Josemaria sort of dapper?
Hoping The Imitation of Christ and St. Josemaria can speak some encouragement and wisdom into any situations you are dealing with this season!