Last year during the season of lent I heard a sermon at my church. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it snuck into my dreams and even now it haunts my days. The priest suggested people should spend more time contemplating the 7 deadly sins; gluttony, greed, pride, envy, sloth, wrath, and lust, looking especially at how these undesirable vices might be sneaking into our lives.
That night I dreamt I died. I found myself standing in the longest line I have ever seen. Perhaps it was the clouds we were standing on or the fact that nobody had a loaded cart in front of them, but somehow I knew I was standing in the judgment line. Finally, after what seemed an eternity I could see the pearly gates. Allowing only one person in at a time I started to become a little anxious.
I slowly moved forward praying I would be instructed to take the first door on the left, “stairway to heaven,” or at least I would hear the word, “welcome.” I didn’t consider myself a saint, but on the whole I thought I’d been pretty good. Finally it was my turn.
I walked past the gates and stood next to a man who looked like a skinny version of Santa Claus dressed in an angel’s robe. He was looking at a floating screen and shaking his head in disapproval. It reminded me of how I felt when I was concerned about being on the naughty list. Relying on the same old stand-by I’d used for years, (whenever I was pulled over for speeding) I asked, “Is there a problem, Officer?”
His care-worn face turned toward me and he kindly asked, “Are you familiar with the 7 deadly sins?”
“Such as gluttony?” I responded, all too sure that I was not guilty of this particular vice, but his reply shocked me.
“I’m afraid you have lead a gluttonous life.” he said.
“No, I’m sorry, but you must be mistaking me for someone else. The largest size I’ve ever worn was a size 5. I exercised weekly and never over-ate.” I responded defensively.
To my surprise he explained that gluttony is any over indulgence, not just with food. As a consumer driven society people indulge themselves with everything from cosmopolitan clothes to technological toys leaving the earth filled with waste from these indulgences and I was no exception. Humbled as I was, my plea was ignorance,
“What about sloth?” He inquired.
This time I was not so quick to retort. “I worked fulltime, cared for my family, kept the house clean, prepared meals, helped with homework, ran my children to practices, games, and church. I seem to remember being very busy. I’m sorry, but I can’t say I recall being lazy. I actually always thought of myself as rather industrious.”
“Your industry served yourself and those who directly benefited from you. You were busy earning money to maintain your quality of life. The world is full of great need. You were given a life in a land of plenty. The opportunity for an education and the gift of a means by which to earn a living. You were slothful, because you did not take the time to help a world in dire straits. You chose not to see the problems. Did you give money to charitable causes, recycle your trash, spend time helping others, or was your busy schedule set to better your own life?”
Once again he had me. I was not a victim of a self indulgent society. No, now I believe I was spoiled, by my own choosing.
I stood there thinking, he still has 5 more sins to cover and then he would probably move onto the commandments. This situation was going no where fast, so I began to plea bargain.
There was no denying I was guilty, but like Ebinezer Scrooge I needed another chance. The calendar would keep ticking away, but this time I would be guided by the inspiring insight he had awakened me to. I would utilize resources cautiously, buying only things I truly needed and recycling everything I could. I would seek out ways to improve the life of others, never assuming that just because I don’t see a problem it doesn’t exist.
I begged the bearded man, “Please could I just have one more chance?” That was all I needed and I knew I would wake each day determined to contemplate a new set of priorities. And then I woke up.
As with most dreamers my initial reaction was, “Oh Thank God, it was only a dream!” That was almost a year ago now. Some days are much harder than others, but I try to take things one day at a time.
I have learned to be grateful for the things I have and not envious. The environment has become as high a priority as decorating my home once was. To motivate me to donate clothes, shoes and all of the “things” I thought I could never live without…. I remind myself that the hearse has no luggage rack. I start every day with a prayer asking for God’s help and some days I find myself praying frequently for help, especially when anger management is an issue. I know pride comes before a fall, so I’ll stop here and wish my readers inspiring dreams that leave you with nothing, but good guilt.
Article copyright © 2007 Anesthetic and Plastic Surgery PA and Paige Intyme
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