IN THE TUMBLER: or how I attain salvation (Thanks alot, St. John of the Ladder)



There used to be a saying: “He is a well-rounded person.” This was a compliment and meant that a person had many good qualities and a lot of knowledge and experience. Basically, you didn’t detect any “rough edges” on them, like ignorance, or crudeness, rudeness, or prejudice.

I tend to think of salvation as a matter of losing my rough edges. God knows I’ve had many of them. In fact, most of them I honed myself into razor sharpness. My dad often told me that to make it in this world, a man had to be sharp. But instead of making a success of myself because of my sharpness, I often cut people, even people that I love.

Sin creates many rough and sharp edges. Pride, ego, lust, fear, anxiety-all of these sinful passions erode my soul. Unchecked, these passions would turn me into a rock- a hardheaded and hardhearted man with many rough and sharp edges.

How then do we attain salvation? How do we become well rounded? Believe it or not, but an ancient monastic, St. John of the Ladder, knows the way.

St. John said that life is like stones placed in a tumbler. The stones may be hard and have sharp edges, but as the tumbler is turned, the stones became smoother and rounder as they tumble and bump into each other.

Oh no! Tell me you don’t mean it, Saint John!

If this is true, then my entire life is the tumbler and God has placed me in it with a bunch of rocks. This means that it’s in the rough and tumble of life that God will save me, smoothing out my rough edges. Family, Church, work – everywhere I go, I’m going to be in the tumbler.

This is how God is going to save me? Really? I had something more dramatic in mind. You know-queue the background music (a piece by John Williams would be good); bring the cameras in for a closeup of me as I stand on  a rock on top of the mountain obviously emaciated from months if not years of prayer and fasting; the sun breaks through the clouds and a beam hits me as I suddenly come into full enlightenment. Ah…yes.!  (I’m sorry, St. Seraphim. I’m not worthy to even tie your shoes.)

Well, then, I need to get a different perspective about the so-called hassles in my life. Bumping into other rocks is not about being punished, but about being saved. So, there will be hassles: stop lights and taxes and flat tires and dead batteries, and burnt toast. There will be hassles from people: mean bosses and obnoxious church members and inconsiderate spouses and indifferent priests. Yes, it’s a real tumble in here.

Does God really expect me enjoy the tumble? Probably not, but I’ve got to quit railing against the rocks. Does the stoplight change when I yell at it for catching me once again? No, it doesn’t seem to hear me, but in fact seems to stay red just a little longer than before. And what about the people who just seemed determined to bump me? Well, they are rocks just like me. They are in the tumbler with me being saved. When we bump, its forgiveness and humility that will smooth the edges.

Maybe this is why the saints were so peaceful in the tumbler of life. They didn’t see their hassles as random and meaningless (or as the Bard said, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”) They saw it all is God’s attempt to save them.

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic was a man who had been in the tumbler. Listen to his words!

“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have. friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf. Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me in to the background. Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand. Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep. Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out. Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me: so that my fleeing to You may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger, so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he lively steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.”

Now that’s a well-rounded man!

3 Responses to “IN THE TUMBLER: or how I attain salvation (Thanks alot, St. John of the Ladder)”

  1. smary Says:

    May God Bless you and everyting you do. I can say lots of your thoughts connect with my thoughts, but I am happy I have a different mission in life from God. Thank God there are real Priests like you.

  2. smary Says:

    Thank you God and may God Bless You.

  3. smary Says:

    Thank you God!!!!!

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