You Don’t Really Mean It

Rembrandt. The Return of the Prodigal Son.
Rembrandt. The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Every time I fall, and run tearfully to the bosom of Christ in the Sacrament of Confession, the Enemy attacks me with one of the most insidious of his lies: that “I don’t really mean it” when I offer my contrition; that I’m not really sorry for my sins; that when I repent, I have no real intention to “sin no more, and avoid the near occasions of sin.” I’m only taking advantage of Christ’s forgiveness to excuse my sin, says the Accuser; I will just return home to do it again, and I’ll be back again next week. Otherwise — if I really meant it — why would I keep on persisting in the same sin?

A few days ago I was listening to a conversation with Matt Fradd on Catholic Answers Live, titled “The False Intimacy of Porn” — which even from the very title, convinced me that Matt is somebody who truly understands what I’m going through. I guess I had never really thought about it before, but one of the things he said that struck me was that people who are struggling with addictions to pornography often feel that they are testing God’s patience; that by returning again and again to confess the same sins, they are somehow “using up” His forgiveness, and that someday it will run out. Isn’t there a point, after all, at which God will “give me over to the lusts of my heart” (Romans 1:24)?

Without even realizing it, I have imbibed this lie. Even though I say with words that I know Christ’s forgiveness is boundless — as wide and deep as the sea (Micah 7:19) — I behave as if it isn’t. I see myself struggling, falling again and again, and I wonder if I even really mean it when I repent. But as my confessor reminded me last night — at least I am still fighting. So many have given up, been defeated, like I was for so long: lulled into thinking that it wasn’t really sin; that I didn’t need help or healing or forgiveness; that “Jesus understood” and was content to leave me fallen and bound. I have returned to the fight. I am holding myself accountable to God for my sins. I keep getting up. I am still clinging to the truth of God, as my lifeline and my salvation; clutching it to my heart, as the core of my being and the pearl for which I labor. And as long as I am fighting, God will be with me; He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8).


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