This great quote from St Ambrose bears deeper reflection; “Stronger than the person who conquers the strongest fortresses, is the one who conquers himself; nor is there any greater height of virtue.”
“Conquering self,” what is that all about?
There is a great term often used in statements about chastity called, self-mastery. This word says it all. The one who has mastery over him or her self is virtuous indeed.
It seems to me that this culture appreciates discipline only when it is in reference to athleticism. We ooh and ahh over those who run marathons, climb heights, bike extreme distances and win competitions. We balk at anyone who is a virgin, and laugh at the idea of monogamy and the committed lifelong bond of marriage.
It takes far more discipline to guard your sex drive than to “strew your seed” all over town. How tragic that so many regard this unique gift of oneself, as nothing more significant than using the toilet. Men and women USE one another as mere receptacles to relieve themselves. I can’t think of anything more degrading than that. What it leaves in its wake is a counterfeit of what real love is meant to express. It is quite the opposite in fact of love.
How many are seeking authentic love and settle for a cheap, empty imitation that leaves them unsatisfied and used? Is that really all we are meant for as human beings; shoddy, shallow encounters that bring transitory pleasure, gone the moment we slink away in the night? Are we nothing but animals with carnal cravings that are never fully satisfied as we prowl about looking for our next quarry?
How futile, defeating and dehumanizing.
We are made for so much more; for love that gets…but also gives. Even more mind boggling, in this act of limitless giving, we actually receive; and it isn’t fleeting, negligible, or insatiable.
How is it that we think we are satisfied licking up stagnate water from an old bucket, instead of quenching our thirst from the abundant, crystal waters of Life? Why do we choose rhinestones over diamonds and lust over love?
No self mastery. We are not willing to delay gratification for a greater good. We are too often weak, and prey on what is easily obtained with little concern for who or what might get hurt along the way. That other person is meant for someone, is someone’s precious son or daughter, and not a piece of meat to be consumed and discarded.
I have come to know and understand in a profound way that love, real authentic selfless love, is the priceless gift few ever seek. It doesn’t come easy and requires much dying to self. It is precious, satisfying, alluring and worth striving for. There is joy that abounds in it, life that springs from it, and happiness that goes so beyond anything a sleazy hook-up can ever hope to deliver.
I know from the depths of my being my worth and value in the eyes of another, a trust fostered by trust: I will be caught when I fall, and loved when I am too frail to remember my name. We have spent thirty-four years practicing love in the day to day in a committed, life-long unbreakable bond of fidelity.
We are not the first, nor the last. We have had many role models in our life of the selfless giving required to sustain a marriage that is happy, fruitful, faithful and filled with mutual joy.
Am I bragging? No. For none of this would be possible on our own. We have been tried in the fires of suffering, drunk deeply of the life-giving love of Christ, begged for abundant grace and prayed unceasingly.
Alone, we can do nothing.
Our union is not based on a “piece of paper.” It is forged in blood, sacramental blood. It is an unbreakable covenant between God, man and woman, until death do we part. Divorce is not an option, nor a word that has ever passed through our lips.
You see, when one has made the total commitment to another, there is no Plan B. You give it your all, never giving up, and always knowing we are not in this alone. Christ is the Rock we are anchored to when the storms of life press upon us. We may get pretty beat up at times, but we are safe and secure there.
If you are living a life constantly prowling for flesh to consume, or you are tired of being used, I invite you to consider this: you are precious and without compare. You deserve to know real love, be loved and treated as an incredible treasure. Self-mastery is the beginning of the journey that leads to true joy and sustained happiness.
Isn’t it time you got off the hamster wheel, and demanded more for yourself? Don’t settle for simply being another notch in someone’s belt. Step out from the darkness and into the light, it’s pretty amazing out here.