Sunday, October 16, 2011

06.01.11 Which Way?

I used to have a really bad temper. There are only a very few people who have actually witnessed this, but trust me, each and every one would not hesitate to affirm that I can really frighten you to death.

I can't blame my temper on anyone but myself. Long before I read and worked through the excellent book Anger is a Choice, I could identify the fact that I was intentionally and rationally deciding to succumb to fits of rage. This became particularly clear to me during an early fight with my husband in which all I wanted to do, all I could think about doing, was smash his guitar. I mean, I really really really wanted to pick up that instrument and slam it against the wall.

But I didn't. I didn't savor the sound of wood splintering into a thousand pieces or delight in my husband's predictable cries of despair because, even though in that moment I wanted it, I knew that a busted old guitar meant spending money on a nice new one. And I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of getting a brand-new guitar out of our fight!

The fact that I was able, at the height of my fury, to make a (semi-) logical decision was a turning point in how I dealt with my anger. It was a stark realization that if I could choose not to act destructively, then I could also choose to avoid detrimental speech. The problem is - even though I know the right thing to do, I do not do it.

This is the summary statement on sin, folks. The proof that we are all inherently evil. (unless, of course, you either don't usually know the 'right' thing to do or else you always choose it)

Every day, I fight a hundred urges to do something [terrible, mean, selfish, rude, illegal, harmful]. I confess that I use a lot of energy just to keep myself from screaming at people. I know all the healthy means of communication. I know that listening is wiser than running off my mouth. I know that the a**hole in front of me is not intentionally trying to ruin my day with his inanely slow driving. But still - every day, it's a battle to speak gently, show kindness, and put others before myself. And ultimately, I fail to restrain my vicious self, in some way, every day. Because, while my spirit desires the good, my flesh finds it all too easy to do bad.

Here is the problem: I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I knowingly choose to do what is wrong. But by saying that I know that what I am doing is wrong, I'm agreeing that there is some 'absolute good' that exists, apart from myself. Since I acknowledge this good but am unable to adhere to it, I prove that the ability to do good is not present in me. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, then something about my nature must continue to hold me in this repetitive trap of wrongdoing.

This, then, is a principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This is sin, plain and simple. Left to my own devices, I am an awful person. How can I be free from this empty selfish life? 

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
   {see Paul's letter to the church in Rome, chapter seven}

God makes a way for me to experience - and to give - life differently. It's not the easy or the popular way. But it is the most satisfying, and it is full of true life. So, every day, I can rely on a strength more powerful than my flesh. Every day, I can receive a grace more forgiving than this world. Every day, my choice must be: Jesus.   

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