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Patient As A Sick Man, Confident As A Convalescent

After vespers tonight, a church friend and I were standing outside under the oak tree, reflecting on what a good weekend we’d had with the film crew at the crawfish boil. We agreed that it was so encouraging to us all to see our parish through the eyes of others. So often we get caught up in the ten thousand discouraging things that happen in the life of a parish, especially one struggling to take flight, that we forget about all the good things God has done and is doing for us and through us.

Driving home, I again thought about how for all the physical sickness and spiritual despair I’ve struggled against in the past couple of years, but how that same period has been a time of the greatest spiritual growth in my life. And I wouldn’t trade it for all the comfort I had before.

Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters To A Young Poet, writes:

Why do you want to shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you really do not know what these states are working upon you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question whence all this may be coming and whither it is bound? Since you know that you are in the midst of transitions and wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything morbid in your processes, just remember that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself of foreign matter; so one must just help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and break out with it, for that is its progress. In you, dear Mr. Kappus, so much is now happening; you must be patient as a sick man and confident as a convalescent; for perhaps you are both. And more: you are the doctor too, who has to watch over himself. But there are in every illness many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And this it is that you, insofar as you are your own doctor, must now above all do.

Do not observe yourself too much. Do not draw too hasty conclusions from what happens to you; let it simply happen to you. Otherwise you will too easily look with reproach (that is, morally) upon your past, which naturally has its share in all that you are now meeting.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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