I am now beginning my third week long spiritual retreat with the Renovare Institute. One of the exercises we begin our retreat with is called “Laying on the Altar”. We pick some kind of object that represents how we have been experiencing God and we lay it on the altar. This time I picked a strainer. You know, the kind you use in the kitchen when you want to wash your fruits or vegetables before you eat them. Leading into the retreat, our Renovare focus of reading and practice has been on holiness. So the picture for me has been submitting to the Gods strainer, where He washes His living water over me and cleanses me from my sins, brokenness and corrosive habits.
One of the books we have been reading is called Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoung. It is a book that talks about the “seven deadly sins”. It has been a fascinating and insightful review of the history of these seven and how over a thousand years the main seven sins have been pretty constant. When I have ever heard of this deadly list before, I always kind of ran away from it as it sounded pretty harsh and I really didn’t like the idea of processing my deadly sins. But the author goes back to the early beginnings of this list to find the originating ideas for the seven. A key word that comes out of the discussion is vices. She describes vices as “corruptive and destructive habits. They undermine both our goodness of character and our living and acting well.” These vices or habits we have developed hinder our walk with God and lead us toward sin. So far, I have read through the first three vices all of which I find some room for growth:
- Vainglory: which is an old-fashioned word that describes our need to seek glory for ourselves. This can also look like people-pleasing or even perfectionism as we are looking to validate ourselves in some way rather than embracing the glory we can only receive with God. My vainglory really isn’t evident to others. I don’t pound my chest trying make others notice me, but is more internal where I want to look good to others and want others to see me as competent and dependable. I have built quite an idol over the years of being perfect.
- Envy: I have to admit this, but I struggle with envy. Envy can be subtle. We typically think of envy from a materialistic point of view, envying what others have or possess. But for me, envy is more in struggling when others are successful. That is hard to admit and hard to write. Because I also struggle with vainglory then I am susceptible to envy because if I am striving for a certain level of performance and I see that performance in others, I can feel a twinge of envy that they appear to be receiving the glory in which I am seeking.
- Sloth: When I first saw this vice, I thought “finally, I can get a free pass on this one because I certainly am not slothful!” Well I found out, I definitely have some slothful tendencies. When we think of sloth we think of laziness usually from a physical sense, just being a couch potato. But the original word translated to sloth is acedia and it really meant being lazy in love rather than just work. Now sloth gets interesting and a little personal! Have I ever been lazy in demonstrating my love for my wife? Have I ever been lazy in showing my love for God? Have I been lazying seeking God with all of my heart?
So back to the strainer. As I have been reviewing and noticing evidence of these three vices in my life, it has been as if God is lovingly drawing me closer to Himself, and in the process revealing to me some potentially corrosive habits that keep me from knowing Him more. When we use a strainer, we put fruits or vegetables in the strainer so we can gently wash away any contaminants or dirt. We don’t mash them or try to turn them into something completely different. We just do so to enjoy the beauty and taste of the fruit as it was fully intended to be. In God’s strainer, I am not being changed into something I am not. I already am a child of God. But in the strainer, God is gently washing away the grime and dirt of my life with Living Water so He can enjoy me more fully as the person he intended me to be. I don’t mean that to be egotistical. God loves us and He sent Jesus to make a way to Him and He is continually wanting to grow us and sanctify us because He loves us and delights in us. What an amazing truth to ponder. When I have that mindset, I gladly submit to His strainer and want to take notice of anything that is keeping me from experiencing knowing God more.
I am so grateful for what God has been doing in me over the past several years and how He has been fully immersing me in his love through my Renovare journey. To be honest, if I would have read this book on the Vices 10 -15 years ago, I might have had a different experience. I may have come away more defeated as I may have experienced God being disappointed in me or His condemnation. But no more! Praise God for how he has healed my distorted view of Him and freed me to experience His love and grace more fully. Now I embrace the vices as a way to review my days with my Heavenly Father and I submit my life into the strainer of Living Water that cleanses me from all unrighteousness.
I hope to cover the remaining 4 vices in a future post. But to give you a same, the remaining four are wrath, gluttony, lust, and greed.
Do you find any of the three vices described above something you are familiar with in your own life? What are they? How do they manifest themselves in your life?
Take some time this week and ask God to help you see where any of these may come into play in your life and then surrender willing to the strainer to be washed and cleansed by the Living Water.