Want to know what is exciting about today? Ok, there's actually 3 things that are exciting about today:
- We have a working laptop that I am currently.typing.on. We've been praying and hoping and wishing for a laptop for months. Our computer is tucked away in the basement and our two year old is not exactly trustworthy upstairs on his own. So our to-do's have been limited or pushed off because our times without child are few and far between (especially for me). God, in His awesome wisdom and knowledge, showed us that we actually already had this "dream laptop" and it just needed a little tuning up. So here I am, on the laptop we already owned, and writing away in.... A COFFEE SHOP! (That's my #2)
- I'M IN A COFFEE SHOP! (Ok, so I have a problem. It's called coffee. But I don't want to talk about it.) When asked what I would do for myself if I were given the time without child or other obligations my answer is always always always "Oh, I'd go to a coffee shop and read and write." THAT'S HAPPENING TODAY! Yay! Which leads me to #3...
- I'm writing. I've been wanting to write regularly for such a long time. Mom life is demanding and while that is not my excuse for not writing, it plays one part of many as to why I am not writing like I wish I were.
The other day I taught a class on Galatians 5:16-17. This verse jumped out at me and spoke directly to the inner struggle I've been having most of my life, but have been acutely aware of as of late. The questions I ask myself are these:
"Laura, you are a woman who loves her Savior Jesus Christ fervently. You chase after Him. You rest in Him. You desire to be more like Him. You encourage others in the freedom they have available to them in Christ... and yet you do wrong. You give into this sin and that. You nit pick about your body, your attitude, your thoughts. You strive for perfection while constantly holding your life up against everyone else's as a rule by which life should be measured. You desire contentment and yet you strive to be perfect and for everyone around you to be perfect. You long for acceptance just.as.you.are. and yet your eyes continue to wander and seek the beauty in what everyone else has. Why do you think what they have is what you need? Where is Christ when you are giving into your false identity and lashing out at those you love? Where is the woman you know you are in Christ when the going gets tough and your attitude is challenged?"
This inner dialogue rages through my mind, sometimes quietly like an annoying hum and other times at seemingly deafening volumes. So when I came across Galatians 5:16-17 I was intrigued, relieved and confused.
"So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from conflict."-Galatians 5:16-17 NIV
Never free from conflict? Seriously? So the dialogue probably won't ever completely stop? Awesome.
But as I sat in that attitude of defeat I chose to read bit of commentary on the passage. Matthew Henry says in his commentary on Galatians 5,
"That there is in everyone a struggle between the flesh and the spirit (vs. 17): The flesh (the corrupt and carnal part of us) lusts (strives and struggles with strength and vigour) against the Spirit: it opposes all the motions of the Spirit, and resists everything that is spiritual. On the other hand, the Spirit (the renewed part of us) strives against the flesh, and opposes the will and desire of it: and hence it comes to pass that we cannot do the things that we would. As the principle of grace in us will not suffer us to do all the evil which our corrupt nature would prompt us to, so neither can we do all the good that we would by reason of the oppositions we meet with from that corrupt and carnal principle."
The perfectionist in me sort of wants to crawl in a hole and never come out upon reading this. We are set up for failure as far as the perfectionist is concerned. We will always have this battle being fought, flesh vs. Spirit, and while we know who the ultimate Victor is (Jesus Christ), the"other guys", or as we call them with our children, "the bad guys", will always be scrambling and striving for our attention and our worship, believing that winning the small battles will ultimately allow them toe victory over our souls. When we have the attitude that we are set up to fail we are taking the focus off of Christ, the ultimate Victorious King, and placing it on ourselves, our sin and on this side of eternity.
It's a reality, we aren't there yet, and so we are stuck with these bodies, this flesh and the sin that comes with it. But when we keep our focus on that sin and that flesh and that body we aren't having the mind of Christ. We aren't saying,
"Yeah, Jesus, my mind travels to places where you are not. It goes to the places of anger, of selfishness, of idolatry. But Jesus, YOU are King and Victor of my life, so once again I will take your hand as you walk me out of those places of self-preoccupation and into the bountiful places of Christ-preoccupation. You are not shocked that I'm here. You are not offended that I'm here. And You are merciful and gracious to keep ushering me back into the Spirit of Truth. May Your Name be praised!"
We can't get wrapped up in our failure. We have to get wrapped up in His victory, mercy and love.
I've been a believer for 14 years and I still need to be reminded that He is good in these things. That He's not the one expecting perfection here...
Matthew Henry continues to write, "where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world."
When the inner dialogue rages, that is where the remainder of sin meets the beginning of grace. Where the reality of salvation becomes tangible. And where Jesus is always waiting.
Paul says it best in Romans 7 when he says,
"14 This is what we know: the law comes from the spiritual realm. My problem is that I am of the fallen human realm, owned by sin, which tries to keep me in its service. 15 Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. 16 If I am doing the things I have already decided not to do, I am agreeing with the law regarding what is good. 17 But now I am no longer the one acting—I’ve lost control—sin has taken up residence in me and is wreaking havoc. 18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. 20 If I end up doing the exact thing I pledged not to do, I am no longer doing it because sin has taken up residence in me. 21 Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. 22 For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; 23 but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body. 24 I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? 25 I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin."-(verses 14-25 in the Voice)
Call me crazy, or selfish maybe, but I find a lot of comfort in knowing that Paul and I weren't necessarily too different in this area. He struggled. I struggle. And you struggle too. But pick your head up and I'll pick mine up too because it doesn't stop there...
"Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, 2 because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death."-(Romans 8:1-2 in the Voice)
You are not condemned. I am not condemned. Not only is He not shocked by this inner struggle (He knew what He was signing up for when He chose us, which makes it all the more incredibly glorious) but He does not hold it against us. He does not cast us aside because of it.
He liberates us. He breathes life into us over and over and over. Stop and take a deep breath. Really, just stop and breath. As you inhale and fill your body with new breath remember that He can and will breath new life into you in those dark moments of battle. His supply never runs out.
So let's all choose to go into battle with one another, and recognize that we're all deep in the thick of it and not one of us is actually perfect or has it all together. The only One who is is Jesus. And He wants to show us "us" and how to be like Him.