Recently, I have been watching You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle. Those of you who watch the show know that one character named Aoi is a transvestite/trap, who gives no indication of masculinity save for his height. In episode six, a former superior who knew Aoi when he transitioned shows up and tries for a second time to make a man out of him. He puts Aoi through judo and other tough training in order to accomplish this, but Aoi persists in being more feminine than the female heroines. In the end, this superior gives up, and assumes that Aoi is fine living the way he does.
Here, I don’t want to discuss the ethics of changing a transvestite to conform to their sex. Instead, this episode reminds me of the difficulty of changing one’s ways–whether they be habits, opinions, vices, or sins. A friend once told me that a man doesn’t change much after reaching the age of twenty-five. (Though, many great saints experienced conversions around this age.) I assume the same rule applies to women. There is a strong likelihood of retaining all the evil habits one has acquired by this point to the grave; though, they will naturally ameliorate or worsen depending on our recognition of these faults and our attempts to overcome them. Sometimes, one does succeed in uprooting a vice entirely through time, effort, prayer, and the sacraments. During the long period of struggle, victory seems impossible as the long force of habit draws us again and again to sin–even over the course of decades.
Shockingly–shockingly when placed besides our persistence in wrongdoing, God understands our frailty, tolerates innumerable falls, and continually forgives our sins each time we are sincerely sorry. The sins we know of outnumber the hairs of our head–how much more the sins which fall beneath our notice! Yet, our God forgives and keeps forgiving as long as we repent and until we are perfect–even if our final purification takes until the end of the world. Even some lack of cooperation on our part does not halt the action of grace as long as we sincerely seek and desire repentance.
Only the adamant refusal to repent prevents the conversion of the soul. In a very important sense, our will is the hinge upon which our salvation turns. We could not will obedience to God without God’s grace nor have the strength to persevere in obedience without grace; but, our initial yes to God and continually seeking of His will are required. I do not mean to elevate the human will above grace in saying the following, yet the will can make all of God’s grace ineffectual. A heart can remain closed to God forever despite God’s revelations to the soul and ardent entreaties. It counts as the greatest marvel of God’s creation that he could create beings with their own will and that this insignificant and puny will can defy the Lord of heaven and earth! One wonders whether this inspired Oscar Wilde to say: “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated His ability.” God still saved that rogue! Only a humble God can so refrain from punishing such recalcitrant people as we are and still wish to grant us eternal life and joy!
Many people, like Aoi in the beginning of the episode hiding from her superior, hide from God. They do not approach the Light for fear of the Light being shed upon their sins; yet, only the Light can heal them! All God wants from us is to stand before Him and say “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner” in order to begin our conversion. People point to the parting of the Red Sea or the Plagues of Egypt as impressive feats of God: His greatest miracles by far are the conversions of human souls. None would be damned if they had the confidence to place themselves in God’s hands. We should keep this thought in mind during Lent this year.