What are your thought traps? What are the patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring which overflow into unhealthy patterns of living? An essential element of the spiritual life is learning to discover such dynamics at play within our interior life, and learning to cultivate necessary remedies that counteract them. Thus, by praying, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we are petitioning our heavenly Father to help guide us away from that which chokes our devotion.
The opposite of such interior vigilance is allowing ourselves to believe that we will always be the victims of our thought traps. Perhaps we mistakenly view that our sins constitute who we are. We say to ourselves and to others, “I can’t help it. That’s just the way God made me.” While such a temptation may appeal to us when we struggle day in and day out with our limitations, the truth is that is diametrically opposed to a growth mentality, a mentality that trusts in God’s desire for our sanctity.
In contrast, we must allow the words of the Our Father and the wisdom they contain to stir in us a spirit of confidence and magnanimity. Instead of a spirit of cowardice and mediocrity, we must have great desires in which we dare to prophecy in the spirit that God wants us to be saints. When our desires and dreams ascend to the possibilities of our becoming saints, we will soon discover that our growth is takes on a renewed sense of purpose. We strive, but in time, the striving becomes more of a joy and less of a burden.
That image of St. Teresa of Avila is so poignent in this regards. At first, our labor is like drawing water from a well in which we must labor to carry the weight of needs. Then, as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and open channels of grace. Soon, the load becomes lighter until we reach that point in which water pours forth from the sky in an uninterrupted flow of grace and inspiration. Instead of us working to please God (an illusion that we fall into from time to time), we soon discover that our growth was always about learning to rest in God’s delight in us.
That even though we are marred by sin, Christ gazes upon us with tenderness and love. As we learn to see the patterns of temptation and learn to avoid the thought traps which close us in on ourselves, this makes us available to receive that gaze. That is why we must petition God constantly from the heart, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from sin.”