I continued reading, and it was when I got to the repentance section that I got my answer. I read the following passage:
"Repentance is not leaving sin, but hating sin. Yes, my beloved, hating sin. And this hatred comes from the heart. One may leave sin for fear of what people might say - he's afraid that he will be discovered or accused, he's afraid that his reputation may be ruined, etc... And another leaves sin because he hates it.It suddenly hit me - it's love! It's not action, or wanting to be extra-ordinary, or a mindset, or will power. It is LOVE! Only when I love God with ALL my heart will my heart be the productive, good, strong ground that allows for unwavering change. I realized that I falter and return to my old ways because my heart isn't exclusively God's. It actually made perfect sense that I waver between God and the world. How could I not when the world still holds a part of my heart - a part that weighs me down and holds me back every time I try to move forward in my journey with God. It's like telling God, "I love you Lord and I want to be with You, but I have this one last lust that I don't want to give up... this last fight that I don't want to pass up because of my ego..."
This hatred, as we said, emanates from the heart, and, therefore, this repentance is genuine because it is from the heart. For those who return to sin have not truly removed it from their hearts.
My beloved, true repentance is returning one's heart to God. The Bible says, 'Return to Me and I will return to you, but return with all your hearts.' St. James says, 'Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts.'"
St. Anthony loved God with all his heart. That's why he received God's word and it changed him immediately and permanently. The world had no share in his heart and couldn't hold him back. I realized that if I love God with all my heart, I couldn't help but stay focused on Him. It wouldn't be an effort that requires strong will or a special mindset. After all, if you love someone, don't you naturally think about them all the time, don't you easily and happily do what pleases them, don't you want to listen to their voice, don't you want to talk to them, don't you want to spend all your time with them? It's not any different with God. If I love Him with all my heart, He will not have any competition; I will only be focused on Him. Any less than loving Him with all my heart and I would soon return to the other things I love.
So, the next question was: how do I love God with all my heart? The first and simplest answer that came to mind was "well the more I know God and spend time with Him, the more I will love Him." It seemed like the right answer. After all, I have to do my part to maintain my relationship with God. And it is true, we have to do our part. But under a closer inspection, it seemed that that wasn't the full answer. If it was, I wouldn't have had this whole thought process to begin with. I decided to finish the book.
Two verses brought it home for me: "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me," and "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways." So I've come a full circle with this second verse, but it really drove the answer home. God is the one who is able to create in me a pure heart that is filled with love for Him. He does not want my heart already ready; He wants my heart so HE can fill it. All I have to do is give Him my heart, and ask Him to create in me a pure heart.
Finally, I read a short story that same day and God had one last piece of the puzzle ready for me (talk about God not having anyone else in the world to answer but me). The story was about the value of intercessions, and it was followed by this contemplation:
"Ask from God with trust, and seek the intercession of His beloved saints. They are before the throne of God, asking for you, and God rejoices in your friendship with them.I am certainly glad that I didn't put this book away unread. I pray that God creates in all of us a pure heart that is filled with His love, which allows us to walk with Him without looking back.
Make friends of the saints that you may be like them, and through your friendship with them your heart will be attached to heaven. Then, you will love prayer and praise, and will leave every sin through repentance. Your heart will be free from attachment to carnal things, and you will feel that your place is heaven, even while you're on earth."