“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete; lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4
Perfect and complete. I’m not there yet…
Why does it take refining to be perfect and complete? Why aren’t we just born that way? Born with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control oozing out of us. Why aren’t we born as selfless beings, only interested in the will of God and the good of our neighbor? That would be nice.
But instead we have to battle. We have to be purged. We have to go through St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul, and learn to be good, complete, selfless, and maybe even someday (?) “perfect.” We must go through trials, temptations…the fire.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t stand the trials. That I will melt in the refining fire. That, if God is the Potter and I am the clay, I am already so hardened in my shape that even He can’t work me into anything useful without breaking me. And the funny thing is, my trials don’t even seem that bad. I’m not in the lion’s den, I’m battling thoughts, preoccupations with things that just don’t matter. I’m battling apathy, vanity, anxiety about the future, worry, irrational fears, unfulfilled desires, a sense of having no worth – of life being pointless.
What would it mean to be “complete”?
I think it would mean what the mystics say it means…a complete loss of self. A loss of ego, of concern over “what happens to me.” I think it would be waking up in the morning, and having the first thought on your mind be, “How am I going to help someone else today.” I think it would mean listening to another person in a conversation…completely. I think it would mean being perfectly present in all situations. Among other things.
And I think we can only get there through the fire. Through trials and temptations, and ultimately by realizing that concern for self will never fill.