The man who would come to be known as St. Francis, couldn't love lepers. He couldn't even look at them. He agonized over this. He knew that he and lepers were the same, only they had an illness he did not. He could love people with other illnesses, but not lepers.
This secret gnawed at him. He couldn't sleep. He couldn't eat. He couldn't focus in prayer. He became ill.
This simple friar who would one day become St. Francis had great self-hatred and doubt. He was dishonest in playing the part of one who loves God's world. Everyone thought Francis was the epitome of love, but he knew he was a sham. How intolerable this was for him.
He rose from his sickbed and went to a spiritual friend and confessed the truth, that try as he may, he did not love lepers. Rather, he was repelled by them.
His spiritual friend said: "Francis, just do the best you can. Right now, wide as your own heart is, you are being challenged to expand it even more. God will find a way."
Francis persisted: "But what shall I do?"
His friend said so quietly that Francis almost couldn't hear him: "What indeed!"
What kind of a reply was: "What indeed?" Francis was further devastated to find himself angry at his friend for not having a better answer for him, and he walked away feeling hopeless.
The next morning, even though he was ill, Francis found himself walking a dirt path toward the village. It was a beautiful day under a Tuscan sky. Wherever St. Francis looked everything reminded him of the perfection in all things.
It was not a new idea to Francis that God is perfect, and that each one of us must be perfect as well, regardless of appearances. He was also well-aware that knowing something and living it were two different things, yet at this moment, he saw God's light shining in everything he saw. Of course, he had not yet seen a human being.
While St. Francis was walking and thinking about God's perfection, a man suddenly stepped out of the thorn-ridden bushes Francis was about to pass. Startled, St. Francis saw that the man's face was swollen with the deformity of a leper.
Without even thinking, St. Francis, leaped at the man. He grabbed the man by the shoulders, pulled him so close that they stood breast to breast. Without a thought, he kissed the leper fully on the mouth.
In that moment, Francis became St. Francis, and the leper revealed himself as Christ.
I came across this story told in a book called Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Lewitt. I retell the story here because of how we so want to be more Godlike and find ourselves asking the question again and again -- "But what shall I do?"