We continued exploring the Fruits of the Spirit. We looked at the final fruit, Self Control. It is the fruit that allows all the other fruits to be expressed in our lives. Two practices we can engage in that open us to the Spirit and allow self control to grow in us, are surrender and awareness.
Surrender is not a very popular word in our culture. No-one likes to wave the "white flag," especially when it comes to our own holiness. Despite what scripture says (Eph.2:8-9) we have been given the false impression, by culture and often sadly the church, that we can create and sustain our own holiness - we just have to "try harder." The Spirit however, invites us into a whole new way of holiness and "self control." It is the path of descent- of admitting our defeat and utter need of help. When we finally admit our defeat we are invited to believe in One who is greater than ourselves, who can and wants to restore us to wholeness. Self control then becomes a surrender of our life and will to the love and care of God. We give up trying on our own effort to improve or regulate ourselves (or others for that matter) and direct our energies towards ongoing surrender and discovering God's will for us at any given moment and praying for God's power to carry that out. The power and self control we lacked becomes Christ's power and life living in us (Gal. 2:19-21). He does for us what we could not do for ourselves as we continually put ourselves in His care. "Self control" becomes evident in us by His grace and not by our effort.
Awareness, when practiced without judgements and with consistency, helps us become attuned to and trust the presence of God in all things. When we are aware of and trusting in God we can more easily surrender to Him. When we surrender to Him, as noted above, "self control" grows. A practice that helps awareness grow is that of the St. Ignatius' proposed a daily exercise called, The Examen of Consciousness. It is a simple exercise in awareness. Rather than focusing on what went right or wrong, how you failed or succeeded throughout the day, this exercise encourages you to reflect on moments in the day when you were aware of God-when you were present to Presence-and those times when you were forgetful or distracted. We invite you to practice it for the rest of the week.
The Examen of Consciousness:
Center yourself in silence and an awareness of God's presence. Recall the day with an open spirit (do not judge it, or the events in it as "good" or "bad"). Notice the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that arise as you review the day's events. Let your attention settle on one of these instances and look for God's presence within it, whether you were aware at the time or not. Pray from this memory and within this present moment. Release the day with gratitude and rest in God's grace.
By Babs May-Clark