First among sinners

imageIt was another typical day at work. I stood behind the counter, leaning over to look at the people around me. Attractive co-eds, not so attractive co-eds. Annoying people, snarky Muslims, snarkier professors. Ignorant evangelicals, ethnocentric Orthodox. Atheists. People with a generally poor attitude. And me. A judgmental, lazy, lustful, selfish, unworthy sinner. My food was too good for them. My food wasn’t good enough for them. I was too white, too old, too…

Sinful.

To my right, on the east wall, I kept two icons; St. Euphrosynos and the Port Arthur icon of The Theotokos. I looked at them, crossed myself, and cursed myself, begging help a dozen times a day. Anything to deliver me from myself, to save these people from me, lest my lechery and hate rub off on them.

Save them, Lord, save me.

I was not at all surprised when I was fired. Thank God. They’re safe. Now, what next? How do I save the world from myself, from the antithesis of St. Seraphim I see myself as? Simple, I don’t. God does. Now, if only I could begin to trust in that belief. “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!”

Now, let’s make this abundantly clear, I’m an Ortho-newb. I was chrismated on Pentecost of 2013, after a year-long catechumenate. To say that I am in my spiritual infancy would be an understatement. God willing, some day I may get a clue. That being said, I DO know a thing or two about sin. Actually, I know a lot about it. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I’m good at it. I’m sinning right now. So, when asked to tackle the subject for the blog, you could imagine my surprise, and dismay. What could I possibly have to bring to the table? According to a few people, quite a bit.

It’s easy to beat yourself up over sin. For an ego driven fun lover like me, it can even be a thrill. In Orthodoxy, “holier than thou” takes on a whole new dimension, as we constantly are encouraged to acknowledge —and by God’s grace, receive forgiveness for—our sins. “I am a greater sinner!”, “no, no! I, my friend, am the greater sinner, because…” And so on. But what happens when we step back from the ego flagellation, and give ourselves a deep, thorough look?

In 12 step programs, they call it a “moral inventory”. Call it what you will. It’s in the little red prayer book, the one in your back pocket. It’s called “Preparation for Confession”. So, we take a look. We begin to see where our faults lie. Do I really need to give a list here? Each of us knows what they can be. The question is, “we’ve  gone to confession, received absolution, taken the precious life giving Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and now, here we are, being schmucks again. What gives?” Well, the answer is simple, and you’ve probably heard it numerous times.

Try again.

Every day we wake up and say our prayers, drink our coffee, and commence to sin. But that’s never the plan. No, the plan is usually to live a day free of sin, to try, with God’s help, to overcome our sinful nature, and hopefully, spread it around a little bit. But we fall short. So, what do we do, wallow in it? No, brothers and sisters, we revel in it! It’s another chance for grace, another beginning. We look at the icon, we make the sign of the cross, we shoot an arrow into the heavens, and, by God, we try again! Will we always be this way? God knows. Will we always be found ready, repentant, and on guard? God knows. Can we, a generation coming down, taught by the world we were born into to give in, give up, and live completely for self, have any hope of true repentance? Well?

God willing.

Because, chances are, if you’re reading this, you are already two steps ahead of me—a sinner, and chief among them.

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