Tending the Garden of the Heart
One of the things I love most about Orthodoxy is the spiritual wisdom of her writers and saints. Today's word comes from a modern saint, Saint Porphyrios (1906-1991), and it is something I remind myself of often because I need to hear it. Instead of focusing on rooting out my sin it is more beneficial to focus on cultivating the good.
"God has placed a power in man's soul. But it is up to him how he channels it - for good or for evil. If we imagine the good as a garden full of flowers, trees and plants and the evil as weeds and thorns and the power as water, then what can happen is as follows: when the water is directed towards the flower-garden, then all the plants grow, blossom and bear fruit; and at the same time, the weeds and thorns, because they are not being watered, wither and die. And the opposite, of course, can also happen.
It is not necessary, therefore, to concern yourselves with the weeds. Don't occupy yourself with rooting out evil. Christ does not wish us to occupy ourselves with the passions, but with the opposite. Channel the water, that is, all the strength of your soul, to the flowers and you will enjoy their beauty, their fragrance and their freshness.
You won't become saints by hounding after evil. Ignore evil. Look towards Christ and He will save you. Instead of standing outside the door shooing the evil one away, treat him with disdain. If evil approaches from one direction, then calmly turn in the opposite direction. If evil comes to assault you, turn all your inner strength to good, to Christ. Pray, 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' He knows how and in what way to have mercy on you. And when you have filled yourself with good, don't turn towards evil. In this way you become good on your own, with the grace of God. Where can evil then find a foothold? It disappears!"
Our sins have a way of making us isolate ourselves in our shame and guilt. But we need God's transforming grace to heal our soul.
The evil one is a great liar who knows the weak spots in human nature. One despondency producing temptation that comes from him, I think, is to focus on our sins and vices and rooting them out, to spend too much time dwelling on the evil and passions and how bad we are rather than looking to Christ, our light and our life.
As Saint Porphyrios and others teach, let us focus on directing the water of our soul towards the flowers, not the weeds and thorns. He will make us beautiful and give us everything we need to tend the garden of our heart.