Magnanimity, Mistakes, and Improvisation

If we turn from self towards God, our understanding and our will become nobler and readier to embrace all that is good: if we never rise above the slough of our own miseries we do ourselves a great disservice. . . . buried in the wretchedness of our earthly nature these streams of ours will never disengage themselves from the slough of cowardice, pusillanimity and fear. We shall always be glancing around and saying: “Are people looking at me or not?” “If I take a certain path shall I come to any harm?” “Dare I begin such and such a task?” “Is it pride that is impelling me to do so?” “Can anyone as wretched as I engage in so lofty an exercise as prayer?” “Will people think better of me if I refrain from following the crowd?” “For extremes are not good,” they say, “even in virtue; and I am such a sinner that if I were to fail I should only have farther to fall; perhaps I shall make no progress and in that case I shall only be doing good people harm. (Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, I, Chapter 2, 19, trans. E. Allison Peers)
These words from Teresa of Avila set the stage for a talk I gave at Theology on Tap this February. Starting with these words from Teresa of Avila, I asked, "What's holding us back from that 'life to the full' Christ wants to give us?" Telling about the mercies of God in my own recent past, I made a pitch for trusting in God and not letting fear of the future, mistakes, or mixed motives hold you back.



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