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#84 A Good Thought

Summary: 

Have you ever wanted to do something good, and stopped because of doubt?  God doesn't knock us over the head: He speaks to us in whispers, the good thoughts that remind us to love God and neighbor.  Instead of letting those whispers get drowned out, remember: when you have a good thought, do it immediately.  

Questions: 

1) Why should we do good things to others?

2) Why does God approach us in a subtle way?

3) Why do we need silence in our lives?

Links: 

Bible Gateway, 1 Kings 19

Orthodox Way of Life, 5th Beatitude: Blessed are the Merciful

Mystagogy, On Giving Alms with Humility: The Example of St. Theophanes the Confessor

Script: 

Hey everybody, this is Steve and it's really easy to second guess ourselves. In my own life, I've noticed that I get hesitant in certain situations. I may doubt myself when I'm talking to someone or when I'm working on a project. And I guess that's just normal worry or insecurity, but it's especially troubling when doubt creeps in and prevents me from doing something good. So, for instance, if I'm walking down the street and I see someone sitting on the sidewalk asking for spare change, I find myself hesitating to offer some cash or food. If I'm in the subway and I see a mother with a baby carriage pause at the foot of the stairs, I find myself hesitating to help her lift the stroller.

I have an instinct to be helpful, to be kind and loving but I stop myself because I second guess myself because I let some inner awkwardness force my eyes to the ground and keep my feet moving away from the person who needs me. There's always a tension between wanting to do something good, knowing that I should do something good and yet giving myself reasons not to. Maybe you've experienced it too. A few years ago, while I was up at Holy Cross Seminary in Boston, one of my Professors gave some fantastic advice. During ethics class one day, Dr. Tim Patitsas said something that I still wrestle with, "When you have a good thought, do it immediately." It's advice he in turn got from Metropolitan Sotirios of Pisidia, and it's beautiful because, though we may not realize it, the small good thoughts in our hearts are the promptings of the Holy Spirit, urging us to acts of love, kindness, and unity with God.

And opening ourselves to that quiet whisper in our hearts means opening ourselves and our whole lives to God. Because God doesn't usually knock us over the head, He tends to approach us much more subtly, in ways we can easily overlook. "Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;... and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." And it was that small still voice that was the Voice of God.

So the Voice in our hearts that tells us embrace your friend when he's sad or offer somebody a helping hand when they're in need or admit he made a mistake and repent. That Voice is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. We can make it easier to hear that small Voice by reducing the noise and clutter in our lives by cultivating silence and ascetic labor and giving God the space to speak in our hearts. But it's not enough to simply give God a space to speak. We also need to follow the voice of God faithfully. And that's why the Metropolitan's advice is so simple and so challenging, so we should make it a simple rule for ourselves. Anytime we have a good thought, we should do it instantly. All waiting will do is create space for our own doubts and justifications to creep in. And the layers of doubt and hesitancy and excuses we create to not do good and justify why we didn't do it are promptings of another kind. Whether they come from our own weak hearts or from the tempting of the demons, the thoughts that try to counter the good promptings of the Holy Spirit turn us away from the good just enough that we feel justified in turning away.

So we tell ourselves "that person doesn't want me to bother them" and they go away lonely or hungry. Or "I can say my prayers right after I check Instagram" and then we forget all about them. Or "I didn't do anything that bad" and then we don't repent of our mistakes. But all we've really done is ignored an opportunity to work with God's grace, to love more deeply, to grow closer to Christ, all because we wanted to avoid feeling awkward or putting in a little effort. When we ignore the good thoughts that come to us, and instead listen to the selfish, distracting thoughts that try to override them, all we really do is ignore God knocking at our door. All we really do is leave the still small Voice of God unanswered. So if you think you should apologize to someone, do it, then and there! Don't wait to get angry again or to convince yourself that they should apologize to you.

If you think you should say your prayers, say them, then and there! Don't wait for boredom or fatigue to take over. If you think you should help someone, do it right away. Don't let shyness or awkwardness undermine your love of neighbor. Keep working to cultivate a life of silence and prayer and fasting to create a quiet space in your heart for God to speak. And when He does, when you hear the Whisper reminding you to love God, and love your neighbor, don't let that still small Voice go unanswered. So let's Be the Bee and act on the good thoughts that the Holy Spirit places in our hearts. Be the Bee and Live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week. 

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