SOMETIMES when I'm running, I imagine myself pulling away from those ugly and grabby habits and tendencies I hate most and, as it were, into God's embrace.
There is nothing deep or profound in this exercise. Maybe that's what makes it so effective. I am, at those moments, integrating into very physical body, the deepest desire of my heart (and, according to St. Augustine, every heart).
Do you know that feeling? The feeling of being tied and drowned by habits and tendencies you hate?
Before coming to Christ at the age of thirty-five, St. Cyprian cultivated a whole host of sinful and destructive tendencies. They didn't go "poof!" once he set out to live a godly life. A few months after his baptism he wrote,
When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God's mercy was suggesting to me. I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previously life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and indulge my sins...Like St. Cyprian, were are torn. Our "old man" is crawling with vices that cling to us (hence the saying "monkey on my back.")
But, after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and the light from above, serene and pure, was infused in my recoiled heart...a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner, every doubt began to fade...I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly, and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and holy.(*)
It is only when we realize that all these ugly things living within us are earthy, and that the sacraments (baptism, holy communion) are divine and holy, that we can begin to be free and powerful.
Letter to Donatus 3,4