All of us, to one degree or another, are spiritually broken, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” (1Jn.1:8-9)
When we use our fears to identify and acknowledge our attachments and weaknesses, then God cleanses the residual “stains” of “every wrong doing” on our spiritual faculties; of understanding, memory, and will that we discussed above.
The theological virtues heal and purify our spiritual faculties through the active dark night of spirit. They involve our own efforts supported by God’s grace. The spiritual faculty of human understanding, the assumptions and interpretations we derive, are purified by supernatural faith. Human memory, the storage of those perceptions, is purified by supernatural hope. And the human will which is our response to those perceptions is purified by supernatural charity.
An example will help to illustrate this idea. Imagine a beautiful spring morning, the sun is shining, the sky is blue as you drive down a street lined with majestic oak trees. You notice every tree as you pass under and are taken by the diversity. Each one is a little different – its shape or color or foliage, and each adds to the beauty of the overall tapestry. In awe of the splendor of the moment you effusively praise God as it unfolds before you.
This is the way we are meant to journey through life; acknowledging the grandeur of each moment and praising the glory of God.
Then something happens.
Out of the corner of your eye your attention is drawn to a car going the opposite direction. You look just as it has passed by and quickly notice from the back that it resembles your husband’s car. You were not able to make out the driver, but you know that the passenger was a woman.
Immediately, you begin to cling to that one moment, replaying it over and over in your head. Could that have been his car – isn’t he supposed to be at work? Why would he be with another woman? Fear begins to take over, “Is he cheating on me?” And anger, “I do so much for him and he is never grateful!”
Obviously, this is a silly exaggerated example, but let’s use it to examine what happened to the beautiful day and our communion with God. The beautiful day is still there and God is still with us, but we are no longer present. We have become blinded, clinging to a memory we created, trapped in the past by shackles forged from our own ego.
How would greater faith have changed our interpretation of this event? What really happened? The event itself was harmless and should not have sustained our attention. We saw the back of a car driving down a street. We could have chosen to stop following the distraction and returned our mind and heart to God. Everything beyond that point is our embellished interpretation of the event, which not only violates our faith in God, but also violates faith in our spouse.
We defy the virtue of hope when we refuse to let go of the event and begin making the worst assumptions and jumping to the worst conclusions. Our response undermines the virtue of charity when we take the event personally making it about ourselves. “…cheating on me”, “…I do so much for him”, “he is never grateful (to me)”.
Whenever we take something personally we are serving our ego not God. The same is true when we cling to the past or some imagined future, when we make uncharitable assumptions, judgements, and conclusions, and when we attempt to control others. These actions all deny God and build up our ego.