Sometimes I have to force myself to do the things I want to do the most. It doesn’t make sense but that is the way things work in my life. Paul wrote about this in the New Testament, saying “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
I love that Paul, a special messenger of God, was transparent and vulnerable. He was not afraid of admitting his weaknesses and flaws. I know so many people who would never admit things like this. The fact is that we all struggle. Either we have ideals that we fail to reach, or we have no ideals at all.
I do find it frustrating though. I want to do things that are good for me, like being organized, using my time better, finishing my book, exercising daily, eating a healthy diet, and cultivating good relationships. Somehow it is so much more attractive to play 50 rounds of Tri-Peaks on my phone and consume snack-size chocolates by the handful. WHY?
After telling me I am basically a slave to sin, Paul goes on to say one of the most poignant things ever: there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. Jesus understands my struggle and he gives me what I need to continue on: grace. What would be the point of pushing on in a life that is a mixed bag of joy, struggles, outright failure, tragedy, hope, and surreal glimpses of both beauty and ugliness, if every time I failed I felt condemned?
I am much harder on myself than God is. The more I stumble, the more grace He gives me, but I can sure get myself into a spinning typhoon of failure, guilt, shame, and self-loathing. All those feelings are self-generated. They do not come from Jesus. I think Jesus understands my humanity and frailty better than I do. He certainly treats me with more compassion than I do myself.
I do not want to be a slave to sin, engaging my potential only in my mind but always utterly failing to bring it into the light of reality. I have to keep trying, even though I know I will stumble again and again. Jesus is patient, walking beside me, encouraging me, lifting me up when I lift up my hand to him, brushing off the dust and dirt, and smiling at me.
Somehow he never gets tired of doing this.
Image courtesy of Marcus Spiske