Last night, Steven and I experienced an interesting analogy for Purgatory. This year for homeschool, I'm making Steven and Amber do history on their own. Rather than take tests, they fill out the test sheets using the book, but they have to keep at it until they get an A. I've been working for years on giving them the skills to do this and do it well. Steven, however, is a lazy writer and does not pay attention to his work or the many helpful, repetitive comments I put on his papers. After 3 weeks of turning in some truly lousy work, I'd had it and told him we were staying up until he got every essay correct. We're talking about 6 chapter tests at a 7th grade level.
We were up until 1:30. He'd type something, I'd grade it, make comments, and send it back. He'd follow some comments, forget others. I'd point things out and send it back. Finally, when he was
really close, I'd sit with him, discuss the full "perfect" answers and give him his A. Oh, and believe me, it was painful for the both of us.
Back and forth, back and forth with admonitions and advice: Isn't that just like what God does with us in life? He gave us the laws and the prophets to tell us what to do; we ignore it. He gives us examples through Jesus and the saints; we can't figure out how to apply their example to our lives. He gives us grace; we mess up anyway. We put forth real effort, but still don't get it right. (Hey, we're only human, right?) Purgatory is that final effort by God to make us perfect in His sight so that we can behold the Perfection of Him.
I not only believe in Purgatory, but it comforts me a great deal. Jesus saved me from my sins, but (and I'm really sorry about this) He did not make me perfect as a result. God made us in His image, and made us the defining point between the material and the angelic. That means we have the potential to be sinless, but the weakness to be sinners. Toss in free will, since Jesus' saving us does not mean we become Christian automatons. The result: try as we might, we sin.
Last night, I yelled at my kids, mainly because I was so mad! If I'd had an aneurism and fallen over dead with "WHY CAN'T YOU LISTEN TO ME, EVER?!?!?" on my lips, I would not have been in a perfect state. Nothing imperfect can be in heaven. That is in Scripture.
But I died in love with Christ--just not expressing it well at that moment. Should I go to Hell? Can I throw away Christ's sacrifice and a lifetime of belief just because I lost my temper? Thankfully, God says, "No," and gives me the way to achieve perfection.
Thank you, God, for caring enough to help me do my best, to be patient when I fail, and to give me that one final chance to become perfect in your sight.
Here are a couple of websites for those who want more information.