No sin, no growth


The Hound of Heaven who drove me into the church, also led me to the right priest for instruction,  dear Monsignor Tottman, who gave me the structure that was missing in my enthusiasm.

While I waffled on about the spiritual experience, he smiled kindly and said.  “I’m a bread and butter man, myself.”

He showed by example that contents need a container, that spirituality thrives on discipline, and the sacraments were shovels that dug a deep well and kept it clear of rubbish.

Only once did I disagree with him.

In one of his homilies, he said. “Why does God allow sin in the world? It is a mystery. We don’t know.”

For me, the answer was obvious. No sin. No growth.

Is it as simple as that?

I reflect on how we grow. The spark of God within us creates a yearning for unity with God, but also there is a shadow that we call “original sin.”

For me, this has nothing to do with the Adam and Eve parable. It is about being part of the animal kingdom and having that primal instinct for survival.

All our sins of selfishness are shared by the animal kingdom.

In the early church, the Desert Father who said we are a part angel and part animal had it right as far as I’m concerned.

My memory spans 80 years of walking with Jesus on The Way of spiritual growth.  The blessings f Light were there, and also the dark weight of the shadow.

It was the tension between light and dark that was my teacher.

I learned that there were sins bigger than the seven deadly sins which were all concerned with personal integrity.

In effect, my biggest sin was Ignorance – judging people I did not know and situations I had never been in. That brought me to the second biggest sin, Self-righteousness, and the third, Unkindness.

All of these separated me from others and made me a prisoner to the loneliness of the ego.

The journey out of that prison took years and is ongoing. That is so for most of us.  But there comes a time when we see the shadow as light unborn, and we value it’s teaching.

So often that teaching was regret. Regret is a gift that can give birth to new light.

This growth process brings a personal understanding of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, how they had to grow together until harvest time.

The same lesson is in the Garden of Eden story. The knowledge of good and the knowledge of evil are in one fruit. They belong together. And when they are fully digested, they bring wisdom.

Parables with similar meaning exist in other religions.

In India, there is the parable of the lotus.

The lotus plant has a beautiful fragrant flower. It blooms in the light because its roots are in the dark mud.

Remove the roots from the mud and the plant will die.

When I was a small child, I was told that someone called Satan made me sin, and someone called Jesus died to fix that.

Where was my responsibility?

So yes, it has been a long journey. I have enjoyed the green pastures and still waters, but am most grateful for the rocks, the mud, the steep mountains and dark valleys. I know what a poet meant when he wrote: “O God, give me desolation! “

For God is in everything – and especially the hard places.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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