Confessions of a Quasi-Pelagian

IMG Let Go

Credit: Yasmeen (2015) [CC BY]

Sometimes I look back to my homeschooling years with serious longing. I only homeschooled for grades 11 and 12, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it more “together” in my life. One of the things that had attracted me to homeschooling in the first place was the promise of sovereignty over my time. When people remarked that homeschooling would require so much discipline and motivation, I looked at them, not understanding the issue. (Admittedly, I was the kind of kid who cleaned my room for fun.)

When it came to getting things done – I’ll be shamelessly colloquial here – I killed it. I devised an airtight schedule that allowed me to glide through my musical pursuits, score high on my AP and SAT exams, and keep up a social life. On top of all of that I managed to graduate early. Bizarre, I know. While I’m probably idealizing the experience, the thought that in staying home I had made a mistake never crossed my mind. I’ve always liked to do things myself.

If you have a Type A personality, you know that the thought of being in control of your life is the ultimate seduction. Today’s world seems to be made for you. You’ve cultivated the contemporary cardinal virtues – “ambition” and “hustle” and “will power.” You can be more productive, more diligent, more creative than the next person. When you get inspired, you crack open your Day-Timer or Google Calendar. Even now, you’re most likely chomping at the bit to lose yourself in your work again. Just one more thing before you close this tab to organize your closet —

You might be a bit of a Pelagian.

Pelagius was a 4th-5th century thinker who believed that humans don’t need grace; we just need to work harder. While I doubt that any of us would explicitly deny divine intervention and the workings of grace in our lives, there have probably been occasions when we’ve implied that kind of belief in our behavior. We have built up our imperial selves, with the insistence that everything depends on us. What’s that quote from John again? “I must increase…” Wait…

I admit it, I have the tendencies of a Pelagian. So, last summer I took some paint, wrote “Everything is Grace” on a canvas, and surrounded the words with a profusion of color. It’s a little reminder that when things don’t go my way, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are mistakes. Every moment is essential in the unfolding; every bump and blemish crucial to a beautiful existence.

Copyright 2015 Sarah Blake
Image: Let Go. Let God. March 8, 2015, CC.


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  1. This is so funny because my husband and I were discussing the other day how one of the biggest heresies alive and well in Catholic culture is palagianism, and specifically in the format you’re discussing. I can’t really fault anyone for it; I’ve been there, too. But it’s something that needs to be addressed.

    My husband said I should write an article on it. I’m really glad someone else did instead. 😛

  2. Judith Logan Junop on

    With each of your articles I grow a little bit more. I was an A type prior to children. It’s tough to have a calm and productive household with an A type parent and 4 daughters who each had their own way of approaching life. It was not easy to let go of my A type tendencies but i am ever so grateful to have been given the grace to know that it would be okay to not have everything and everyone on a strict schedule with specific duties to be completed on time to fit the schedule, When I received the grace to let go and listen to God and trust his plan, life for me changed. I still stumble and challenge my A type, but grace comes back to show me the beauty of those bumps. Keep writing so we can keep thinking and seeing through your eyes.

    • Sarah Blake on

      I find it so interesting that you still feel the struggle with Type A tendencies because in my eyes, you are one of the most “chill” people I know! Definitely a role model as a person who let’s things unfold the way they are meant to. Thanks for your kind words!

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