Recently I was listening to a speaker discussing St. Ignatius’ Discernment of Spirits. One of his illustrations has really stuck with me and I’ve found the visual quite helpful.
Apparently, camels are rather “nosy” creatures and they try to get into a tent by nosing under the edge, then pushing their way in. Now, a camel is a large animal and, as I’ve been told by those who know such things, they are a nuisance. A friend told me the camels in Iraq are dirty, smelly, and rather disgusting as they roam all over at will, spitting and farting! (Who knew?!) They are also rather determined animals, which is a problem when they get in your tent because once a camel is in, it’s very difficult to get it out. Therefore, it is important to pay attention when camels are around and when (not if) one starts pushing his nose under the edge of the tent, kick him in the nose! Don’t let that creature get his head in or the rest of the body will follow and then you’ve got problems!
“You sure screwed up that relationship by…”
“Royally stuck your foot in your mouth that time, huh?”
“If you’d just done ________ five years go, it would all be different now.”
Ever heard that voice in your head? You realize it’s not the voice of God, right? It’s the voice of The Accuser, the Father of Lies, the Devil. How do I know? Because while it might be true that I’ve messed up stuff and certainly had my “coulda, shoulda, woulda” moments, God is in the business of bringing good out of my failures, not continually reminding me of them. After all, the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God was there to say, “Yep, you messed it up and there are consequences, but here’s how I’m going to fix it and it’ll be glorious!” (the Tracy paraphrase)
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue to sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)
We are not to continue to sin or to blow off our sins as if they’re no big deal, but we are also not to wallow in them.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)
God is in the business of redemption, cleansing, and healing. That’s why Jesus, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, came to earth as a baby, lived to manhood, and died for our sins–to redeem, cleanse, and heal us from that sin of Adam and Eve. He’s been planning all this from the very beginning! And He had my sins and yours in mind when He did it. Don’t lessen Christ’s sacrifice for you by wallowing in past sins for which you have asked forgiveness.
I have two suggestions for your kicking technique:
- When the accuser accuses, agree! “Yes, I should have ______” or “Yes, I can be very arrogant.” Then praise God for His forgiveness and all the work He’s doing in your life. Thank Him for reminding you how far you’ve come by His grace. (By the way, never speak to the devil. Resist him, but don’t talk to him. The point here is to ignore him and use every accusation to turn your thoughts to God.)
- When the thoughts tend toward sins you struggle with, visualize yourself kicking that nose at the tent edge! I find this very helpful because it brings me awareness of what’s going on before my thoughts get too far. And, sometimes, I realize that I actually really like that particular camel, but know that allowing that sin entrance into my thoughts is a sure way to misery.
So, be aware of your camels and when one of them starts pushing his nose under the edge of your thoughts, kick him in the nose!