The Lord’s Patient Leading

From Rev. Erik Buss, Assistant to the Pastor
October 30, 2018

As we get older we often have the uncomfortable experience of coming to realize that the motives that have driven our actions are not as good as we thought. It is painful when we see that pride or a desire to be noticed were much bigger parts of our lives than we had thought. When the awareness comes crashing into consciousness we can sometimes feel that our lives are a lie, or that we are really bad people masquerading as kind people.
We know, of course, that the Lord has seen all of our actions and motives from the beginning, and we can be grateful that He mercifully works with us despite the fact that many of our motives are not pure. A benefit He has is that He sees the big picture. When we notice selfish motives, we may be blind for a time to the fact that we have also been trying hard. The Lord is never blind.
One passage offers a striking statement about how we develop. It begins by saying that we all have hereditary evil, but that it does not show itself during childhood, even though it is present within each thing we do. The passage then continues, “This hereditary evil even provides us with nourishment, that is, it acts like a nurse until we have reached the age of discretion.” (Arcana Caelestia 4563:2) And in fact, this hereditary evil continues to nourish us until “the age of new infancy,” meaning until we arrive at the innocence of old age (ibid.).
It is striking to think of selfish motives feeding the growth of our spirits. Yet that is what they do. We want to look good so we do behaviors that look good. That habit of doing them creates a vessel in our lives into which the angels can start to work, gradually transforming our motives without our awareness into something more heavenly. Similarly we want to excel, and so from pride or a desire to be the best we push ourselves to do important things.
Obviously, not all motives serve this nursemaid role. Some actions are just plain hateful and we need to reject them altogether. It is the impure motives that lead us to do good actions and to learn new truths that the Lord most easily uses to guide us forward.
What is so remarkable to me is to think of the Lord’s noticing each of our motives, many of which are not particularly laudable, and patiently leading us step by step, along winding paths, to a heavenly goal. And even more remarkable is that He loves us, warts and all, along that path. The more I become aware of my flaws, the more I am awed that the Lord still loves me, and that He patiently leads me, step by step, to the best possible goal my choices will allow.

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