Battling the Demon of Lust
Gerald Sittser of Whitworth University tells a story from John Cassian’s “Conferences” about a young monk who is battling lust for years, and an old monk who doesn’t understand the intimate role of God in offering grace for growth.
Gerald: One story that comes from cation’s conference is really underscore their view of grace and also their humanity. So, the story goes like this. There was a young monk, he’s staying in a cell as these monks in Egypt did, and he was battling the vice, the thought, the temptation of lust. He had done this for several years, he kept failing and finally, he gave up. And of course, the cue there, the sign there is he decides to leave his cell and return to the city and return to the world. So, he’s marching out towards the city and he runs into, I think it’s Aba Apollos if my memory serves me well. And Aba Apollos can tell that this young man is deeply troubled. And so, in a conversation, he finally sort of draws this out of this young monk and he asks, “What ails you?” And the monk says, “I’ve been fighting this demon of lust forever and I’m failing” and then he said, “I went to another old man who lives in the desert and I shared this problem with him and he said to me, “You lazy terrible monk, you are unworthy of being in the desert. You are a failure and you shame to us all.” ” Well Apollos is furious at this old man.
So he first turns to the young monk and he says, “You know, I’ve been in the desert for seventy years. and I still struggle with this problem of lust. You go back to your cell and just for 24 more hours, seek the mercy of God.” Then he goes to the cell of this old man, he stands outside, and he prays to the Lord, let the demon of lust afflict this man as it did the young man. And this old man is tormented and within hours, he decides to leave his cell and return to the world while Aba Apollos finds him as he’s leaving and says, ” Why are you leaving your cell?” ” Oh, I’ve failed miserably because I’ve yielded to the demon of lust.” And Aba Apollos says, “I prayed that you would face this same affliction as the young man, you gave him bad council because you did not encourage him or understand the weakness of human nature. You should repent of your own sin for your failure. The old man does, goes back to his cell, but then he finds the young man again and he said, “You know with these vices, if it weren’t for the grace of God, all of us would fail all of the time. God in his mercy gives us grace and sometimes, that means he afflicts us with adversity, with struggle, with failure, but in the end, it is to rescue us and save us and deliver us. [upbeat, elegant music]