The book focused on the verse from Proverbs 23:26 which says, "My son, give Me your heart, and let your eyes observe My ways." It stressed how our relationship with God must come from the heart because "the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). It also advised: "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23).
Fr. Botros spoke about three things that must emanate from the heart: prayer, faith, and repentance. There were so many deep contemplations on these topics, but I particularly stopped after the following passage under the faith discussion:
I stopped reading for the day, but I was left with two questions I couldn't answer or stop from repeating in my mind: how, and why, was St. Anthony's heart different? And how can I make my heart this productive, good, strong ground for God's word? After all, St. Anthony wasn't in church that day to hear a message, and yet the one verse pierced his heart. I thought back to how many times I've heard the word of God, liked it, even meditated on it, and yet it still didn't change me like it did St. Anthony - an immediate, permanent, unwavering change.
"My beloved, many people have found God's command hard because it has not entered their hearts. St. Anthony heard a verse that entered his heart and had a strong, active impact. He was a productive ground... a good ground... a ground that received the word of God and brought forth good fruit... strong fruit... thirty... sixty... and a hundredfold.My son, does the word of God abide in you? St. John says, 'I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.' St. Paul also tells his disciple, Timothy, 'from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.'
This faith is inside the heart."
The question rang in my ears for the next couple of days, and I still couldn't find an answer. Finally, I asked a friend what he thought the answer was. Surprisingly, he and a group of friends were recently considering the same question. He suggested that the difference was action - doing something with God's word instead of just thinking "it's nice." But I still felt that something was missing - what was behind people like St. Anthony springing into action that lasted a lifetime? We often read a spiritual book, listen to a sermon, or attend a spiritual retreat looking for a message. We even try to do something with the message we receive, but often find ourselves going back to our old ways.
We then explored the possibility that maybe the difference is people like St. Anthony are willing to be extra-ordinary and not lead an ordinary life like everyone else. But I still wasn't satisfied.
Many of us do want to be extra-ordinary, and do try to be extra-ordinary. So why St. Anthony and not me? Why was he, and many like him, consistent? Why do I falter?
Finally, my friend suggested that it was about their mindset and will power. He explained that people like Joshua and St. Moses the Black were led by the Spirit and did not look back. I still felt that there was more to it. After all, if it was just a mindset, how do we change our mindsets? And that's where we got stuck - we couldn't figure out how to get that focused mindset.
(Since the post was getting too long, I decided to break it up. Check out the next post to find out the outcome of this search.)