“Don’t be like a pumpkin that immediately goes rotten if a gnat comes up to it and punctures it”

Some time ago while I was a disciple of Abba Seridos, the minister of old Abba John, a disciple of Abba Barsanufius, fell sick and my abba ordered me to serve the old man. I used to reverence the door of his cell with as much devotion as one would pay the Cross of Christ. … Nevertheless though I had such great confidence in the holy man and was so well disposed to do him service and obey him, when I perceived that one of the other brothers was disturbed by his desire to serve the old man, I went to the abbot to persuade him that this brother could perform this service better than I. But the abbot did not allow him to do so, nor did the old man. Yet I had done my best to give place to the brother, and although I did this service for nine years, I know that I did not speak one disparaging word to anyone, and I kept up this service although I had other duties to discharge. I say this lest anyone should say I had nothing else to do.

Believe me, I know one brother walked behind me from the infirmary to the church, abusing me all the way. But I went on ahead without uttering a word. When the abbot learned about it—I don’t know who told him—he wanted to rebuke him. I fell at his feet saying, ‘Do not do so, for the Lord’s sake. It was I who failed. He has done nothing wrong.’ And another brother, whether to provoke me or out of simplicity, the Lord knows which, during the night silence, made water all over my head and soaked my bed. Similarly some of the other brethren began, during the day, to shake their rush-mats in front of my cell, and I saw such a horde of flies and stinging insects coming into my cell that I could not kill them all. They were in such great numbers because of the heat. When I came back to lie down they all settled on me. Sleep came upon me, I was so tired from my labor, but when I woke up I found my body bitten all over. But I never said anything to any of them, not ‘You are not to do this’, or ‘Why do you do this?’ I am not conscious, as I said, of having said a bitter or complaining word.

Learn then to bear one another’s burdens, learn to reverence one another. And if any of you hears a disobliging word, or if one of you suffers at any time from a deliberate provocation, do not straight-way become timorous, do not immediately get worked up, do not be found faint-hearted in the time of contest, unprepared in time of need, untuned, not able to meet such attacks as are bound to come. Don’t be like a pumpkin that immediately goes rotten if a gnat comes up to it and punctures it, but rather have a stout heart, have patience that our love for one another may conquer everything that comes up against us.

St Dorotheos of Gaza

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3 Responses to “Don’t be like a pumpkin that immediately goes rotten if a gnat comes up to it and punctures it”

  1. PhiLiP SchMidT says:

    Dear Father Kimel:

    I wonder what is worse:
    To “straight-way become timorous,” to “immediately get worked up” …..
    Or to do what I have routinely done for most of my 58 years:
    Internalize the pain and hurt of rejection (or perceived rejection) and fantasize scenarios in which I gain the upper hand and whomever has ‘wounded’ me receives his/her/their comeuppance.
    At such times, I daresay that I can identify with Saul when he was afflicted by his “black mood.”
    It is suffocating, oppressive, and oh so reality-distorting.

    Your anecdote, taken from your time with Abba Seridos, is quite frankly as puzzling as it is illuminating.
    “Why would his brothers show him such disrespect for being hospitable towards an elderly man?” I mused.

    But here’s the thing:
    That you would choose, of your own free will, NOT to harbour ill will in your heart after being on the receiving end of verbal abuse, not to mention being bitten all over by stinging insects…..
    Is a shining testament that I myself need not bow the knee to the darker angels of my nature.
    That you were mystified by the actions of your brothers made no difference.
    You personified a human thermostat rather than a human thermometer.

    Well, Father Kimel…..
    If you can do it, I can do it.

    For years, the default position of my heart has been to nurse my wounded pride.
    That I was playing into the hands of the enemy of my soul didn’t seem to faze me.
    Only recently, after studying a course produced by Men’s Fraternity entitled ‘The Quest For Authentic Manhood,’ have I begun to understand why I am the way that I am.
    Apparently, my turbulent childhood and dysfunctional adolescence have left deep “heart wounds.”
    The irony is rich: I lament that I’m forever being misunderstood, and all the while I don’t even understand myself.
    Oh for a “stout heart” and “patience” that my love for my fellow man “may conquer everything that comes up against it.”
    I do believe that the Master can work within me to effect that change.
    And I do believe that I want Him to.

    A song entitled ‘Cry Myself To Sleep’ by Christian alternative rock band Undercover comes to mind:
    “It’s easier telling lies
    Though I’m dying inside
    Then to open up my heart
    And have it torn apart.
    Cry, cry myself to sleep.”

    The “stout heart” of which you speak doesn’t just magically appear, does it, Father Kimel?
    No.
    I have to be willing to let the Master perform a heart transplant.
    Even if it feels like I’m being torn apart.
    Hey, that’s gotta be better than crying myself to sleep.

    My two cents worth.

    Contemplatively,
    PhiL {‘•_•’}

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Phil, if you look a bit more carefully, I think you’ll discover that the author of the citation is St Dorotheos of Gaza. I am most definitely not a saint (except in the broad baptismal sense of the word.

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  2. PhiLiP SchMidT says:

    Goodness gracious me!

    I thought that the blue italicized ‘St. Dorotheos of Gaza’ was somehow related to the advertisements that follow your blog.

    A thousand pardons, Father Kimel, for my misunderstanding.
    Boy, navigating through an online blog seems to be trickier than reading a hardcopy book.

    Please permit me, then, to amend my above post:
    “If St. Dorotheos of Gaza can do it…..then it’s not outside the realm of possibility for me to do it, either…..
    If the Master thus empowers me.”

    PhiL {‘•_•’}

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