“Dear Jesus, help me to grow in the virtues of mercy and trust. Amen.”
Little did I know that such a simple prayer would have such drastic results. Truly, it wasn’t until I specifically asked the Lord to help me grow in certain virtues that I realized He does answer our prayers… though normally not in the manner I expect.
Growth Takes Time, Effort, and Opportunity
The truth is, growing in virtue is not always a walk in the park. The Catechism tells us that a virtue is a habit, or a firm disposition, of doing the good. Virtues are “acquired by human effort” (CCC 1804). A habit is something we develop through repetition. If we wish to grow in virtue, we must be dedicated to acting in a virtuous manner over, and over, and over again, until it becomes almost second nature.
Suppose I want to increase my physical fitness. I could walk into a gym, look at all the weights, sign up for a fitness class, do research on Pinterest, read a blog, know all the proper moves, examine different dietary practices to accompany my workouts, and talk about physical fitness, exercise, and muscle gain until I’m blue in the face.
But, unless I actually start doing the reps, I’m never going to gain muscle. And doing the reps can be hard. Frequently, this is accompanied by pain and the temptation to give up. The doubt arises. Is this worth it?
However, if I ease into a fitness routine, don’t overwork myself, and stay dedicated to performing the exercise steadily and consistently, it is guaranteed that I will gain strength. In this way, I grow muscle.
It is the exact same when it comes to growing our virtue muscle.
Putting in the Work
Frequently, I approach growth in virtue as if I need only ask for it from God and it will magically appear in my life. I perceive virtue as a good quality infused in me if I just pray enough for it. Growing in virtue and God’s grace come hand-in-hand. But we cannot disqualify the work which must be done on our end.
We need to learn to lift the weights. And lifting weights is hard.
When I asked God to help me grow in the virtue of mercy, I didn’t realize that meant He would give me situations in which I needed to exercise mercy. I didn’t realize that meant I must be hurt, so I could exercise forgiveness.
When I asked to grow in trust, I didn’t realize that meant I would be put in the middle of a plan that was frightening and unknown.
The only way to become a merciful person was to exercise mercy itself. The only way to learn to trust was to lose control.
It was uncomfortable and I didn’t understand at first. But I grew to understand.
He Gives When We Ask
If you ask Him to help you grow in a virtue, He will grant your request.
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8
One of God’s forms of teaching is experiential learning.
The Lord Trains Us in the Gymnasium of Virtue
I often believe that I know the virtues and areas I need to grow in most, while in reality, God has a completely different plan. After all, our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8).
In what situations do you find yourself being challenged to grow?
Perhaps you are experiencing times of impatience in work or at home with a family member. Or maybe you are frequently stressed out about getting your long list of “to-dos” complete. Perhaps God is inviting you to cultivate the virtues of patience or peace.
Rather than searching out obscure weights in the gym which we might find more appealing, what are the weights He is putting directly in front of us? The virtues He is testing us in are most likely the ones in which He wants us to grow. Our Lord is the best Trainer.
We’re Not Alone
As a Trainer, He is there with us while we’re lifting the weights. We have no louder encourager and supporter than He who has lifted them all before us. So be not afraid.
When the tough times come, start lifting the weights. When the weights get heavier or the reps get longer, just know that He has developed your own unique fitness plan. And in time, your hard work will pay off. Your virtue muscle will have bulked up.
In what virtues is the Lord training you right now?The Gymnasium of Virtue #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Mary Grace Tillman, or Gracie, is a student, daughter, sister, friend, and full-time extrovert. If you don’t find her on the nearest soccer field, she is probably lost down some country road with the windows down and tunes blaring. She loves to praise God through music and sports and she strives to live life to the fullest.