Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
The Good Intent pub, Puttenham Village, Guildford, UK
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
— Joshua 24:23-24
The land is conquered and divided, and Joshua is dying. In his last oration he reminds his people of their journey out of Egypt, and of God's strength and goodness, urging them to stay true to the one God, and put away the strange gods among you. To this the Israelites readily agree, whether to appease their leader, or because they have a true desire to do so is not clear. I assume good intent. What soon becomes clear however is their inability to live up to this ideal. The next book, Judges, is a story of repeated betrayal of God and His commandments.
Our good intent often does not match our actions. Many times I've prayed to show up only in kindness for my wife and children, and later the same day behaved counter to that desire, a grumpy word, an impatient response, a complaint, an inattentiveness. Small acts all, but counter to my intent to be present, and act in love. Many times also I start the day with a plan to take on and complete certain goals, and find myself distracted, demotivated or fearful, and find excuses not to do the work, or to take short cuts. Reflecting at the end of each day there are inevitably times where fear dominated over faith, where my actuality did not match my intent. There are gaps.
It's not that I set out to do wrong, any more than I believe the people of Israel set out to disobey God. We all fall into distraction. The sin is not in being distracted, not even in being drawn away from God. The sin is in continuing the path once we see what is happening. The sin is in not turning. Regardless of how badly my day has gone, how often I've strayed from my good intent, I find it important to reflect at the close of the day, and where I was wrong to admit it, to myself, to God and perhaps to a fellow human being, and seek ways—or at least become willing—to make amends. This practice (even the wording used here) is drawn from the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and is of course similar to the catholic tradition of confession. That such practices are commonplace among the faithful indicates a recognition that we stray. But I remind myself it is only possible to stray if one has a path to begin with. Today I am grateful for the path, for the Way I choose to follow.