Two weeks before Lent was over, God was calling me into a deeper intimacy with Him.
I can't tell you exactly how it started, but I remember a thirst growing inside of me to learn more about contemplative prayer, and even the monastic life.
There was also a desire to pray. I saw how minutes flied in prayer, and many times even hours in prayer felt short.
I started praying the divine office with more diligence. I started to attend mass more frequently.
I felt more at peace. I felt more joyful. I also felt more self-righteous.
Slowly these nagging voices started to come into my head. Look at all these people, they don't pray as you do. Why they don't come to mass as frequently as you do? Look at this neighbor, trying to be a show off with his 3 huge cars and look how simply you live.
These voices kept coming almost inadvertently into my mind. I tried fighting them, but many times the thoughts and its feelings were difficult to shake off.
Then one morning during prayer, I had this vision of me as a toddler struggling and learning to walk. I saw Jesus with His arms stretched, smiling, encouraging me to keep walking.
And then He told me "Don't think of yourself as an adult in this, but as a baby who is barely learning how to walk in my steps. Walk my son, for I am guiding you".
It was a humbling vision. I haven't even learned to walk and I think myself as spiritually superior to others.
And then came the fall. Sin is always chasing us around.
The voices turned sour this time. You are not a true follower of Jesus. You are not worthy to be a missionary. You are probably the most sinful and worthless of all the missionaries here.
How to believe this voice in my head? At one point it exalts me and canonizes me before dying, at in the same breath it condemns me to hell and tells me I'm not a true christian!
I have wondered whether there is a connection between having a low self-esteem and being self-righteous.
I have been told that bullies love put downs because of their own lack of confidence and self-esteem.
Can something similar be happening here with self-righteousness? How is that after discovering my sinful nature I am so quickly prone to think of myself as worthless? Why do I feel so spiritually powerful and then, in the middle of my weakness, the most hideous heathen?
I can come out from the whole of low self-esteem, see a glimpse of spiritual growth, and then hold on to that moment in time, allowing my self-esteem to rest on it. The result are self-righteous thoughts, feelings and attitudes.
When that moment in time is gone, my self esteem, seeing no base to rest on, falls to the floor.
Pride and self-righteousness then, seems to come not from high self-esteem, but from a low self-esteem.
And maybe self-loathing and self-deprecation leads not to humility but self-righteousness.
How different it would be to truly see my sinfulness and yet, at the same time, the immense grace of God that adopts me into His family?
How different it would be if all of us would find our identity and worth in God, and not in our jobs, careers and degrees, or even worse, our spiritual growth.