Spiritual Reflection – Being Saved
I don’t know if it is still regarded as valid, but it used to be said that if you were trying to save persons from drowning, it would sometimes be necessary to knock them out. The idea was that in struggling to regain control of the situation, they may well endanger the lives of those who were coming to save them. Most of us do not want to be saved and are prepared to fight to retain our delusional autonomy.
This is certainly true in the spiritual life. One of our greatest liabilities is our determination to be fully self-sufficient, so that we do not need to be saved. We think that we can manage nicely on our own. For us to maintain this belief we have to turn our backs on the truth and mentally repackage our life until it conforms to our delusional self-image. This vision of self depends on a defective memory, an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, and the sincere conviction that anything untoward that has happened in our lives is to be blamed on others. Its effects are usually invisible to ourselves; others bear the brunt of them: self-righteousness, harshness toward perceived “sinners,” and an absence of any healthy sense of our own sinfulness.
Christ came to save us, and sometimes the only way for him to overcome our unhelpful resistance is to knock us out, to puncture our hyper-inflated self-esteem, to bring to nothing the grand designs that allowed us to think more highly of ourselves than we should. In the aftermath of such an intervention we begin to come to the realisation that we cannot save ourselves. Our integrity is spotty. Our virtue is precarious. Our self-reliance is delusional. If we have even a glimmer of intelligence, we will reluctantly conclude that we need to draw on resources outside ourselves. The grace of Christ certainly. But also the guidance and support of the Christian community. With this insight, we are well on the way to being saved.
Michael Casey. Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2019), eBook Location 873.