Little Nasties Continued

Angela asks how one can deal with the Little Nasties: the unexpected sins one discovers inside one’s heart.

Finding the Little Nasties within is not always an easy task. They have prodigious camouflage abilities and even when you pick up their scent, they can be surprisingly slippery. And when you finally manage to corner them, they have a way of turning on you viciously.

The faults within us are clever at dressing themselves up as virtues, and it is not uncommon to find that I can be regularly committing a sin under the guise of self-righteousness. “Of course I had to get angry with him – he had to be put in his place. Let’s see him try that with me again!” Detecting a Little Nasty requires a great deal of courage, the courage to strip away the comfortable covering of feeling good about oneself and exposing the raw mess underneath. It is much like cleaning the slough off a nasty festering skin wound – it hurts a lot, but it has to be done so the infection doesn’t end up killing you.

In tandem with courage, brutal honesty will help a great deal. We can all be quite honest about the faults of others (at least within ourselves) but for some reason we find difficulty in applying the same standard of honesty to our own situation.

I don’t think it is possible to attain this sort of honesty without first offering up a sacrifice. The great ox of being pleased with oneself must first be led to the altar and slaughtered, its remains burned as a sweet aroma of surrender on the altar of Truth. Until one gives up this powerful desire to be pleased with oneself, it is virtually impossible to be honest, for it bestows the strongest motivation to find another way of looking at things, a way that is more acceptable and less damning. Once this major barrier is broken down, the door is opened for God to enter and begin the long laborious task of rebuilding one’s self afresh; only this time, He will do it the right way.

Do not misunderstand – I am not saying that one should live their life feeling miserable and despondent about themselves – far from it! For the rebuilt self-image in which God participates is immensely pleasing, but for very different reasons. The self-pleasing image of myself brings misery in the end, for it is based on lies. But the divinely designed self-image is based on Truth, and “the truth will set you free”.

There is an immense joy and peace that comes from seeing the truth in yourself. It is peace because you can feel secure that there are no nasty surprises lurking unseen or undetected and waiting to jump out and destroy your life, or at least your comfortable self-image. No, everything is out in the open, nothing is hidden, what you see is what you get, so you know exactly what you are dealing with. That is actually quite peaceful, even if what you are dealing with involves Little Nasties. Better the cockroach you see and deal with than the cockroach you nervously hear scratching about somewhere behind your pillow!

And it is joy, for Truth brings its own joy. We experience this joy when we learn something new about the truth of God’s creation, for example; like the joy of neatly solving a complex puzzle or of learning how wonderfully designed an eye is. Truth just fits together so neatly! It is as deeply satisfying as clicking the 1000th piece of a jigsaw puzzle into place and stepping back to enjoy the completed masterpiece that cost you so much time and effort. Knowing the truth about the Little Nasties within is similarly satisfying – the picture is not so pretty, but there is a great deal of happiness to be found in finishing it off.

But also like a jigsaw puzzle, putting the real picture together can be incredibly difficult at times. Little Nasties can be a bit like quicksilver – just when you think you’ve got a good grasp, it slips right through your fingers.

You find a Little Nasty in your heart. But within days, perhaps hours, you have been distracted, or become busy with other matters, or subconsciously avoided pursuing it, until before you know it, the Little Nasty has been consigned to that drawer in your mind marked “For Future Investigation – When I Have the Leisure”. For of course, there are far more pressing matters to attend to, aren’t there?

Grasping and holding quicksilver needs patience and care, and a bit of experience. So does hunting Little Nasties. Experience is a great teacher, and the little critters become easier to catch when you’ve learned a few of their tricks so you go in prepared for them. Setting aside some uninterrupted daily time for hunting Little Nasties is one strategy. Moments of quiet contemplation are invaluable in this pursuit. How many Little Nasties have I trapped sitting alone in an empty Church with nothing but my thoughts for company, or walking in a park, or gazing upon the ocean waves lapping on the shore? It is in these moments of serenity that the Spirit of God is most able to work in us.

Dogged persistence is another invaluable tool. There are creatures in nature that bite a human and will never let go, even if they die. I think God may have created these tenacious critters partly as a example for us. Once you have the Little Nasty in your sights, don’t give up until you have flushed it into the open and dealt with it!
Neither should one enter into a conversation with the Little Nasty. Often these conversations end up with the Little Nasty convincing you that it’s not really so bad, and giving you a hundred reasons to let it go, and lulling you into a false sense of security. Do not even begin such a conversation! If you find yourself in one, get out! Tell the Little Nasty, “Get behind me, Satan!”

Worst of all is when a cornered Little Nasty turns vicious. It can rip your soul out, if you let it. It can turn the blame back on you so powerfully that you lose your confidence and your hope and collapse in a shivering heap while it makes its getaway to the safety of the shadows of your heart once more.

“How dare you think you can deal with me in this way?

Who do you think you are?

Don’t you see what a horrible, sinful wreck you are?

Do you really think that the likes of you can ever be a good person?

Come on, who do you think you’re kidding?

I am only the smallest and weakest of your zoo of Little Nasties; there are many more like me you know, and they’re much worse than I am.

Why are you picking on me?

And do you really think you will ever get us all out?

Better men than you have tried before this, and failed!”

This is the kind of stinging attack of which only the desperate are capable. And it can really ram home. The best shield against it is humility. Humility is shield that is made of the strongest materials there are: it is made of God’s grace and bound together by His unconditional love. When it is shiny and polished and well cared for, you can see your reflection in it, but it is a reflection from the loving, gentle, compassionate grace of God that reflects the deep beauty He created in us rather than the ugliness we have accumulated through our years. Oh, you can’t hide the ugliness and you know it’s still there, but somehow when you see that ugliness reflected from God’s grace and love, the original beauty God designed for you shines through it and transforms it.

“Yes,” you find yourself responding to the vicious attack of the cornered Little Nasty, “I am all that you say I am, it is true. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. And He still loves me with all my weakness and faults. And if He has hope for me, then neither will I abandon hope. If He can still see what I might become, if He has a plan for transforming me, then I will trust myself to His grace and love, and I will patiently hunt down every single Nasty that I have so foolishly invited into my heart until I have banished every single one, or until my last dying breath stops me. Now stop your ruckus and give yourself up, for you must know that you will not escape me today, no matter what you do. For the Lord of Truth is by my side.”

To every hunt, there must come an end, one way or another. Sometimes, our Little Nasties get away, but sometimes we catch them and eradicate them from our hearts.

Happy hunting!

Fr Ant

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16 Replies to “Little Nasties Continued”

  1. It is true that it needs a lot of courage and honesty in self assessment to point out the finger at those little unexpected bugs inside our pure hearts to keep it pure all the time with the love of God and it is true too with the grace of God too ,that with HUMILITY we could prevent and eradicate them , but the question now how we practice and experience and maintain real humility in our practical daily life ???????!!!!!!!!!!! i appreciate if abouna can enlighten us more about that great positive moral quality or virtue as we all call it …. by the way in real life i came across a lot of people and i believe a lot of us did too , came across people who showed most of the time that great self image with a lot of positive great moral qualities , humility etc .but when it came on the real crunch , oh mate we see entirely different self image , why is that ????!!!!!

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  2. i came across some friends who told me about their experience regarding the acquire of this great virtue in real life experience , one of them a professional person with a high position , he told me that he earned this positive moral quality gradually, he said when the pride attitude used to fight me i used to run and clean the church toilets in the week end , he added now i do it regularly every week end and i feel a lot of inner peace as usually humility and inner peace go together parallel to each other …another girl told me i used to earn it by serving the needy a plate of food and i feel better when i get a plate and eating and sharing with them after serving …. i wonder if any around get any experience in this positive moral quality to share with others … at the end of the day Christianity is a dynamic and not a static religion in which always there is room for improvement and development of the human being with such positive attitude and positive great moral qualities which i believe need a bit of effort and patience as person needs to earn them gradually …. live in the fear of God all the time and make sure that the hands of God do things all the time through your hands , not yourself ,amen ….

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  3. Little nasties?? The diocese isn’t exactly going through its brightest of moments, there’s ‘big nasties’ everywhere.

    I have been hearing for a while now about certain problems within the diocese, but I didn’t think it was all that serious until I came across some footage of a confrontation in front of the diocese headquarters.

    Honestly people, I don’t care what HG has supposedly done or has not done, absolutely nothing warrants that disgusting public display which achieved nothing in the end anyway. I don’t think I have ever been more disgusted and more ashamed in my life to call myself a Coptic Christian and to associate myself with a Church whose people act in such a vulgar manner.

    As for the certain article in that poor excuse for a newspaper; a newspaper known for its left-wing ‘journalists’, it should not be taken for a grain of salt. The fact of the matter is these newspapers have no weight whatsoever in Church matters; they are not produced by the Church. The accusations in the article have no grounding, and perhaps if its writers want to be real journalists, they would research their information, gather evidence and present real facts on issues of real concern, instead of dragging clergymen’s names through the dirt, and claim to be Christians of good-standing while doing it.
    My only criticism of the situation regarding this article is that it should have been formally denounced by the diocese. For what ever reason it wasn’t I do not know, neither do I choose to speculate.

    As for the email circulated by a certain cleryman, what was it really meant to achieve? From what I could see, all it did was make an already bad situation worse. Although I am sure he had his reasons for condemning his bishop so publicly and so bluntly, and although I am sure his concerns have some legitimacy, I can’t help but feel just a little disappointed at a man who I have always held in such high regard. I mean honestly, didn’t this email do the same thing to HG that the sickening article did to that innocent priest?
    I do applaud him however for one thing, he was willing to put himself on the line for one of his brothers who stood alone without a defence while being wrongly accused.
    For that he has my utmost respect.

    So now the situation is this, we have lost our bishop and no one knows when or if he will return, and the diocese is divided.
    Are we all proud now?

    Let’s not forget, for years before Sydney officially became a diocese, the people and priests were pleading with HH Shenouda to ordain for them a bishop because they were not happy with each parish doing its own thing and they wanted a united diocese.
    Now that we have a bishop, neither the priests nor the people are happy, so they have driven him away, even though it was them who asked for him in the first place.
    Are we all to be proud of that?

    Maybe there are some things which HG could have done or should have done differently; I am one who chooses not to speculate because it’s not my place.
    The bottom line is the whole situation could have been dealt with in a more respectable manner, without public rioting, without abusive and condemning emails and without all the disgraceful behaviour.

    Remember, it was us who asked for a bishop, HG did not ask to be ordained.

    Those are my thoughts…

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  4. For i desire mercy and not sacrifice and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings Hos 6:6 amen ……..we have to pray to the Lord to have mercy in our souls and to fulfill his promise to shorten the days for the salvation of those who are selected ….may God strengthen our faith , hope and love till thy kingdom come , amen …..we need to raise more prayers and more fasting in our churches so our Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on us and to support our Australian Coptic community in this part of the world to learn to accept one another and to love one another and to have mercy and mercy and mercy on each other , amen .. Lord have mercy , Lord have Mercy , Lord have mercy …..

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  5. hey nathan,
    How can that clergy man have your utmost respect for condemning HG in a very ruthless unorthodox manner. ……Is that what he preached to you guys, to love & show mercy on others, and not to judge your brother for doing wrong? What has happened is not acceptable to many people! & I am not proud to be part of the Australian Coptic community either……… In Egypt, people won’t dare to act this way, they have respect & love towards their priests and bishops.
    Because they are real COPTS. I think you lose some of the Coptic religiousness when you live long enough in this country. You tend to have free speech, and then confuse it with being truthful…….. Being truthful is great, but we have to do it through the fear of God. I feel no one fears God anymore.
    Rather we seem to take his place and judge one another.!!!
    Many youth are sad and the least that can be done to fix things is an apology. Yes we demand an apology to HG.
    But may be that will be a tough test for true humbleness, which too has disappeared!!!!
    God exists people, feel his presence, it is not words that we hear and say. ACTIONS count. God is watching, & woe to us if He treats us according to our sins. may we show mercy to others so God has mercy on us too.
    That was His promise, if you remember.
    Excuse me guys for being too honest……..

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  6. Beautiful words Romani. We should exhort one another to live a life worthy of the calling with which we were called.

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  7. That’s all very well, but let’s read on…

    …in all lowliness and gentleness, in longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirt in the bond of peace…!!!!

    This part seems to have been left out in the current upheaval!!!

    But have we gone so far as to exhort a bishop to be worthy of his calling?
    It’s not up to anyone to decide whether a bishop is worthy of his staff and cloth, and use abuse and disrespectful public displays, whether or not the bishop is wrong. That decision lies solely with the synod of bishops who layed their hands on him in ordination.

    It’s not up to anyone to exhort anyone else to walk worthy of their calling.
    Everybody knows what is good for them and nobody need be exhorted or admonished by anyone else.
    Before you pluck anything from your brothers eye, have a look in the mirror and examine the reflection starring back at you. Before you judge whether anyone is worthy of their calling, examine whether you are worthy of your own calling.

    We all know how the opinionated Egyptians often blow things right out of proportion, so until the church comes out with some sort of formal statement about whats going on, and what went on, I personally have chosen not to believe anything I hear anymore. There are more accusations and stories flying around than you poke a stick at, and more people and clergymen become implicated with every story you hear.

    One major criticism I have, or rather one observation I have made over the years, is that the church often seems to sweep things under the carpet and make no mention of them in order to carm a storm. But this often results in a myriad of stories, which often never helps the situation. Perhaps for anything to change, the church needs to be more open, and more accepting of criticisms. Otherwise we will continue to have repeats of these current happenings.

    Those are my thoughts…

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  8. I like that, so in other words, we should NOT judge one another because we all have our own faults. I have no more to say but this:
    SORRY to our dear blessed bishop daniel, just from me, for what we have put you through, I hope you have some sort of access to this and you can read it. I know you must know this verse but just a reminder to you and to many who are lost…& confused while hearing all the false stories I am hearing too…….
    ”Blessed are you when they revile & persecute you & say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake, REJOICE & be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in HEAVEN, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you..”matthew5:11-12
    Pray, relax & Smile my dear bishop because somebody loves you here: ME:-)

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  9. It is true we must hit the sin and not the sinner …. so please hit the mistakes and never ever hit and judge people ….please learn to respect the view of the others and how to approach that view if you would like to say something constructive …….all of us make mistakes everyday but the worst thing is to continue in the mistake and keep repeating it ….i believe all levels in the Australian Coptic Community from the bishop , priests and congregation in this part of the world learned something from this ordeal . ….i believe at the end of the day , we will emerge more stronger as a community of Christ in this part of the world …..i believe , in life ,if we have got something good , positive and constructive say it ,if not please say nothing …. on the same token ,we will never give up our way of life of Christianity and sense of belonging as Australian Coptes , our openness , honesty , fair go ,democracy , involvements ,dignity , rights , respect , better life ,faith ,hope , mercy and love …. at the end of the day ,we understand that we have got realistic expectation as our smart object and all of us must work hard , smart to achieve it , however we understand too , that not everybody will be satisfied and that is life ….i believe time will prove and bring all the facts forward , just wait and seeeeeee and do not jump to conclusions that you regret it latter on ……praise God by your life , amen …..

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  10. Daniel

    You ask how I could have any respect for the clergyman who allegedly circulated that email.
    I have known that man for a long time, and one thing I know about him (and I am sure most others would agree with me) is that it is not his style to act in such a manner. So I am sure that due to the situation, his hands were forced to do what he did, and I am confident that some of what he had to say had some legitimacy.

    Whether or not I think he could have done it differently; because that email certainly had something to do with the disgusting riot, he has my respect because he chose to stand up for his brother whose garb would have surely been taken from him, probably knowing full-well that writing that email would have landed him in hot water.

    However, let me be clear, I am not condemning HG in any way, and I do believe we should not completely write him off, as many have done.
    Whether allegations and stories are true or not, I am quite sure that they have been exaggerated. But we have gone too far now for an apology to fix anything.
    Allegations have to be investigated, and all implicated clergymen, including HG, have to be cleared of these allegations.

    One misconception I think many of us have, something I have heard been said a lot, is that this would not have happened in Egypt.
    Being bold is in our Egyptian nature and I am sure this has happened on other occasions in Egypt; most significantly in recent history being the removal of HH Yusab II from the patriarchal office.

    Perhaps it would be better for HG to stay in the monastery and live out the rest of his life in peaceful retirement, away from this disgusting environment and disgraceful diocese.
    I would do that if I were him.

    Or perhaps in his absence, the people and clergy will realise how important HG has been for the diocese and he will return.
    But as occurred in the Diocese of Melbourne, this will only happen after the diocese falls to pieces in our own hands.
    And it will; I am sure of it!!!.

    Those are my thoughts….

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  11. well said Nathan …despite i did not have the opportunity to read that relevant e mail till now, however i feel it was only the straw which got the camel down ….it was going to happen soon or later by that e mail or whatever or by that person or other …………..i believe our parish as a whole has got a lot in their plate and what happened i believe was to the expectation to a lot of us ….. mate it might be God allowed it now before any more disaster in a couple of years or more ???!!! i believe God has got a message to alll believers at all levels in our church to be more accountable and responsible and to get things right through the right people and right channels …. i believe just to have to wait and see but i hope we are not going to wait too long because the figures in our churches are declining a lot since the last couple of years , in addition we have got an aging population in our churches which will decline naturally in the next few years and no more immigration programs in this part of the world , so we have to get the things right before it is too late !!!!???? a lot of churches closed their doors from other believers of non Coptic….you never know might be the right time to get things right ….praise God by your life , amen…..

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  12. Nathan,
    In regards to history being the removal of HH Yusab II from the patriarchal office. I meant that this would not happen in Egypt too often. not like every year or something.
    And if you continue with that history story, you will realise that the people involved recieved great punishment from GOD. They were crushed in a train accident that was major then.

    Pope Yusab went back to his place right after after. and what happened was greatly damaging to the church then. Because that gave ideas to el sadat to do the same to our blessed pope shenouda later.

    What I mean and what we learnt in our coptic faith, is to have major respect and some sort of fear when dealing with people of God that carry His blood & body daily. That is why we are different and we are a deep rich church….

    what happened from that priest made us loose that respect as he didn’t show it in the first place….

    I am just worried that the way our community is acting at the moment will lead to God’s wrath on us. This is the second bishop that goes through this (remember melbourne?)

    So do you want to say that Australia keeps geting faulty bishops for some reason!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don’t justifiy something wrong by saying it would have happened sooner or later. May God treat us all according to his mercy and not on account of our sins. Amen.

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  13. The problem is that everybody is looking for some sort of justice or reprimand, whether its for the bishop, the implicated priests or the diocese as a whole.

    I am not justifying what happened but we just need to let it go. Bad things happen, we need to MOVE ON AND GET OVER IT!!!!

    Either bring the bishop back and forget this ever happened, or just leave him in the monastery in retirement since everybody seems to think they know what is best for the diocese.

    At this point, people need to be less opinionated and just let it be!!

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  14. i was away in the bush for a while ,i will try to catch up with all those great views of Daniel , Nathan , Mike, Tonyk and our beloved Father Anthonios …..the equation is very simple but needs the right approach and it is all in the hands of our beloved bishop and not in the hands of the Coptic people in this part of the world at least in this stage …. whatever type of Leadership, it is always accompanied by accountability and responsibility…I believe all types of leaderships are usually under scrutiny…i remember in the old days, bishops and i believe some till now used to concentrate mainly in the spiritual aspects and do all their best to get that lost sheep to the church …i believe this type of leadership is called spiritual leadership …that was the big dream of most Coptics in this part of the world since they established the churches in this part of the world forty years ago ….we have got a lot of lost sheep around and we are loosing a lot in daily basis ….something must be done urgently …i believe the bishop and his great team of the priests ,they need to work closely to restore faith and trust back in our church and the whole community ….. i believe this is the real mission of the church of Christ is to fetch the lost sheep ….if the bishop wants to combine his leadership with materialistic leadership in other affairs of the church, which we do not advice , he has to make sure to get it balanced and get things right through the right people and the right channels and to be acceptable to the community , however at the end of the day more scrutiny will be there because the Coptic community in this part of the world will never give up their way of life of fair go ,honesty, opennes, trust, respect ,dignity , ,involvement ,sharing , mercy, faith ,hope and love which fills their pure hearts for those least ,,,,,,,, we need mercy and mercy and mercy for those least in our community …we need trust and acceptance to be restored as soon as possible in our community and our churches and get the lost sheep back …i believe a lot of damage was done in our community in the last few years which need urgent attention ??????!! i do not want to go in details as all of us know our basic spiritual and human needs as a community ….i wish like others one day when we ring a priest and when we are in bad need for him to find his phone open and to find him available….somebody told me that priests have open mobile phone lines , i wonder why it is hard to get hold on them ???!!!!!!! might be this is the first thing needs to be fixed to restore faith and trust ….we have to be positive and put our faith in our Lord , amen … ……

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  15. I like how you say “the Coptic community in this part of the world will never give up their way of life of fair go ,honesty, opennes, trust, respect ,dignity , ,involvement ,sharing , mercy, faith ,hope and love which fills their pure hearts for those least ,,,,,,,,”

    Sorry… but that is not what I see. I see this community to be very demanding, and very unsupportive to anyone….

    That is not my view but also the view of outsiders that I got recently on a sunday to church….. they sat with a group of people that welcomed them then they started talking & gossiping about other & it was quite embaressing

    So I moved with them & sat with another group which was worse. So I decided not to invite anyone & to stay away from people on Sundays & all days…

    This is not respect or faith or trust.. I used to be a very simple & straight forward person but I have learnt to expect the unexpected.
    I know I am very negative but this is the truth….
    It is very unconstructive to hear most of the people talking about each other & the priests & of course the bishop in the most inappropriate manner.

    When is this going to stop? The more you call it of fair go ,honesty, openness…etc, the worse it gets..

    You know who you can call this.. it is our friends in the islam community. They stand by each others till death!!! They supported their sheik Tag El Dein & covered on him in love despite him being arrested & badly humilated by the media … they restored his dignity then they dealt with the situation internally & they still love & respect him. That is why they are a strong & close community, very hard to break down . yeh they are missing the holy spirit but lets be open & fair enough to learn the good things in them rather than just criticize them.

    Our community has the ability to blow up things & make a big problem from nothing like they have nothing better to do!!!!!
    Man.. the problems we have are on facebook now for the whole world to see, too much sharing is happening & people are still going on & on

    God does not require our fasting & prayers more than our actions & hearts
    Sorry for being too bold. I am part of our community after all.

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  16. Daniel you are spot on …figures are declining in our churches as well as trust and faith were lost all over the place…… it is a sad aspect …. all of us agree that people are the asset of the church and makes it and not structures ….there is an old proverb which says “you can not teach an old dog new tricks ” …mate most of our church congregation came to this part of the world old and from all walks of life , as well as some priests” even some of them they do not know English at all i believe as well our blessed bishop came old too …… this is not a problem but the big problem that no body did the effort to adapt and keep one uniform standard inside the church as outside it to overcome this cultural gap and do things which is acceptable to the most in this part of the world …people came young and people were born in this part of the world started to suffer from dual standards and this is called i believe cultural differences when cultures collide ….so the bottom line , that the way of doing things back home is not acceptable here which brought a lot of division with less trust and less acceptance among our community church …..priests and Bishop did not look after these aspects and did not look after the lost sheep spiritually and get right the different community problems and needs which made the whole situation worst with the negative outcome of less trust and faith all over the place …….mate what happened happened and remember our Lord Jesus Christ is capable to fix everything overnight …..pal Daniel seems you are a fine young man and i want to tell you one thing and to the other youth as well , that we have got a lot of hopes on you and all the youth in our church that one day you will not only keep the doors of our churches open but you will run its affairs for generations to come and all of us will fight with our teeth for that ,so please do not give up your sense of Coptic christian belonging which i can see it there in your message and those great Christian values of fair go for all , openness ,honesty , constructive involvement ,sharing , trust ,respect ,mercy , faith, hope , love to all and specially for the least … all of us has to learn and understand that we are one capable Australian Coptic community and we are capable to manage our affairs ” no more nationalities to be mentioned in our Churches in announcements by priests and no need for the church to involve in or attend those gatherings to collect money for Sudan or Egypt or Ethiopia or whatever ” and i believe we will get there …. on the same token , i believe we have to live with old generation of our church congregation and their way of life ,also i believe our blessed bishop Daniel is capable with our blessed priests and with the right people and through the right channels this time to restore faith and trust back in our community and churches …. i believe a lot of us learned the hard way … positive and have faith in our Lord …..

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