Today is one of those days. It comes at the end of a week full of my usual challenges, which have been made to seem even more pathetic in my eyes when I compare them to the actual, horrific tragedies that others have faced this week instead. My existence could be much worse, but knowing that doesn’t make it better. Praying for those who are suffering instead of thinking about myself should improve my disposition, but my prayers seem like so little, and my own lack of control just adds fuel to my depression/anxiety cycle.
So, today I am supremely human. I am battered down by my own failings. This week, I gave the “cut direct” to a work associate who had irritated me at a past meeting, wrote off my employees in my own mind when they (in my opinion) failed once again at what seemed to me the simplest of tasks, watched gossipy television and engaged in my share of saying a few things about others that I would not say to the person herself, and put reading a romance novel before going to sleep in front of taking more awake time for a longer night-time prayer.
It is much easier to write about being a good Christian than it is to actually be one. It is much more appealing to feel oneself compelled by the Spirit to expound on the requirements of the narrow-path walk than to reflect on just how wide your path really is on a regular basis.
Do not misunderstand me. If you have found anything of value in anything I have written, anything that has brought you closer to the truth of God and His love, then realize that I give total credit for that revelation to Him. I know that nothing good comes from me except through God.
But on my human days, when I am supremely reminded of my need for the forgiveness of Christ, even knowing I am forgiven does not keep me from feeling like something that has crawled out from under a rock.
This feeling does not come from God. It is the exact opposite of how He wants us to feel. What He would prefer would be a reaction in which I lean that much harder on Him. Only when I completely surrender myself to the Spirit will I find that walking the narrow path is more practical than I have so far experienced.
At least I am not alone in this struggle to “be good.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul discusses the battle between the good in him, which comes from the Spirit, and the evil in him, which comes from his sinful nature. “I do not understand what I do,” he writes. “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (7:15). In other words, Paul says he doesn’t understand how he keeps doing the things he feels ashamed about doing instead of the things that he knows he should be doing that would make him feel at peace with God.
But, there is hope for all of us. Paul concludes, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). We will always be fighting our sinful nature, the nature that we die to each morning we arise anew in Christ, but by leaning on God, we have a chance to excel at God’s law of love instead of the devil’s sinful nature.
Christ tells us in Matthew, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (5:19). This truth applies to the mind as well. Where our mind is, what it dwells on throughout the day, that is where our actions will go. If we are dwelling in a place close to God, then our actions should reflect the love of Christ. If we are dwelling on television, or gossip, or work worries, or judging, then our actions will reflect the sinful nature that Paul laments in Romans.
We can’t go through life not thinking about the basic things that we are doing, the tasks we need to finish at work, the goals we have for ourselves or our children. But if we discipline ourselves to look through God’s eyes instead of just our own, then hopefully we will reflect a more Christian walk.
How will I exactly walk my talk this week? What do I need to change to avoid having another Sunday where I’m feeling the failure blues? I am going to begin by trying to watch my inner voice more closely this week. If I start thinking negative thoughts, I am going to stop myself and think about God instead, or say a prayer for the people in Boston or West, or open my Bible to one of a thousand verses I have marked that I should have memorized. If I want to avoid somebody, I am going to make myself smile at them, give them a hug (if that is appropriate) and offer a compliment that I will really mean. I will remember that Jesus had to look at the likes of me and love me. Being passingly nice to someone who otherwise annoys me is honestly the very least I can do.
If you have made it this far in this post, then maybe God is talking to you like He talked to me this week. I will close with a couple of verses from my Bible reading this week that really struck me with the poetic way that they expressed the power of God and what He desires most. (It is, after all, National Poetry Writing Month!)
From the book of Jeremiah:
But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. (10: 12-13)
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. (9:23-24)
May we delight the Holy One this week by inviting Him into our minds on a moment-by-moment basis, for “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).