For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do---this I keep on doing. (Ro 7:19.)
Robert Ellsberg tells the haunting story of St. Mary of Edessa in his book, All Saints. Abraham Kidunaia was a desert hermit during the sixth century who lived a life of prayer and was later declared a saint by the Catholic Church. When the parents of his seven year old niece died, Abraham found himself to be her guardian. He built for her a cell beside his own and they both continued a life of prayer. Mary had become a beautiful young woman when one day a visiting monk waited for Mary’s absence and raped her. She could not bare the shame and fled to a distant city where she became a prostitute. Abraham sought and found her after she had spent two years living a life of degradation, initiated by sin that was not her own. Abraham disguised himself as a soldier and tricked his way into her bedchamber as a customer. Overwhelmed by her shame, she at first refused to leave. Ellsberg records Abraham’s words to her.
“It is not new to fall; what is wrong is to lie down when you have fallen. Remember where you stood before you fell. The devil once mocked you, but now he will know that you can rise stronger than before….Do not draw back from the mercy of God.”
We, as doctors, as Christian doctors, are not immune to sin. Each of us is either living in a sin into which we have fallen or can remember rising from that sin in our past. If we are not there now, we will be there again. The struggle between our natural lives and our lives in Christ will continue until God takes us home.
Mary of Edessa had an uncle who lived beside her, sought her, found her and lifted her from her sin; and we too have a God who dwells with us. Not only does he provide the strength to stand where once we would have fallen; he seeks us when do we fall and is always there with mercy to lift us up---so that even in our defeat, we can “rise stronger than before.”
Than you for your Mercy. Let me live in gratitude and let that gratitude change the way I live. In Christ alone. Amen