Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Rather Inescapable Truth

Preamble: This may seem like an odd juxtaposition, but it should be understood that my previous post was written a few weeks ago and doesn't entirely reflect my current bump in the road. I could censor this blog, but what's the point of journaling if I filter half my thoughts. Hence, the following was written by hand in the wee hours. Saturday sucked.

Christianity is kind of like a chess match. You storm out of the gates on fire for God, just as chess players can perform the first few moves quite swiftly. There are a few opening options that lend themselves to vulnerability, but I suspect it would be sufficient to read one chapter on the subject of chess to discern that the real game begins once a few pawns have been shifted. Similarly, Christianity rewards newcomers, even the hopelessly sinful, with such an inviting spirit. As for me, I've used this analogy in the past, but when I checked all my preconceptions at the door and strove for an honest reading of the Bible, it felt like a million Christmases. I was so happy. Back to chess, when you only have a few pieces off their default tiles--am I using anything near proper terminology?--it's easy to review the entire board, and certainly your own options. You haven't much reason to self-doubt. A few moves later, you've accomplished the equivalent of praying out loud for the first time or touching someone's hand and having the Holy Spirit pour through them, and it's like a confirmation that, even though you're inexperienced, you might have just enough logic on your side to get through this thing. Before long, though, things get kind of muddled. A new analogy becomes more adequate after a few months of Christian living.

Christianity is kind of like a spiritual tug-of-war. The breakdown is as follows:

Team A: Satan, who pulls hardest;
The rope: you;
Team B: God, who would pull if He could touch you, but as a sinful rope is incompatible with His nature, He places a Spirit of truth in you that some of us hear quite adequately.

Please understand that teams were listed as such to illustrate a point, not because Satan has intrinsic right to top billing. Moving along...

Last night, as I was trying to kill a mosquito, a futile endeavour, but such was my Saturday, it occurred to me. I think it was there the whole time, and I also think I mentioned it in one of my recent testimonies, but it hadn't dawned on me that this one little nugget posed such a tremendous threat to my salvation. Before I disclose it, a few disclaimers.

1) I love the Holy Spirit and the law by which it governs. The absolute best moments of my life, isolated and temporary though they were, were Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.

2) God loves me. More than ever. He's placed more wisdom in me since October than I was able to accumulate by/for myself over 27 years. And I tried to define myself by the stuff.

But wisdom is a double-edged sword. Wisdom is the kind of revealer that articulates the implications and repercussions of choices. It seems now that I can't turn a corner without understanding that my most natural instincts are wrong. Not just that, I have a decent grasp on how wrong they are. And although I want to see the right thing accomplished, although I want to promote the Law of the Spirit, I don't honestly care whether I succeed at it so much as I want to see it done. Now, it should here be stated that I will continue to endeavour to do God's will. But the reason I think my Christian walk will end in self-tragedy is because, in spite of all the things I've tried, for all the connections I've made and paths I've crossed, I still don't, at all, care for myself. Being self-aware of my sin doesn't help the issue. See, it just so happens that I've engrained self-loathing so completely into my being, that I needed to justify in my mind why I felt so outcast (even as "a sinner" among "sinners"), that this is as natural to me as breathing. For the most elementary of believers, the problem becomes evident: I will be convicted of hating one of God's servants, whom He loves. Namely, me.

I have said that I feel like I'm being pulled by two forces. I've also said that I want God to win. These are sincere statements. But it's as if God, who cannot touch sin and understandably can't pull me from His end, also refuses to communicate with me through the aforementioned Spirit to the point that I would have a clue in the world how I'm to proceed here. An the catch 22 is that I don't love myself enough to want it, even though it's what I most crave. And so, as is the nature of this game, Satan has an edge here.

I suffer considerable backslides when I knowingly sin. If I were inclined to forgive myself, as seems to be God's inclinations, I could repent like the average believer does. Even when I string together decent streaks of good behaviour, I end up collecting new insight into the Christian faith during these periods, and thus I find myself in a greater position to condemn myself when I inevitably stumble. Considering the tense nature of the good-evil struggle, I find myself reaching a point of extreme exhaustion, to say the least. It all came to a head yesterday. It saddens me, also, that I could probably handle a crisis with a fair bit of composure, but when enough consecutive little things go wrong, when I have a day of sheer frustration and missteps, it kind of detonates something in me. C.S. Lewis once described Christianity as a "fighting religion," and I feel very much like I've run out of fight. Because of the above points, I lack a certain objective or goal in all this: I want my body to be used in a Christ-like form of service, but I don't want it to receive any of the rewards and blessings God offers such a person--and yet, secretly I do want that, but if I could only hear that stinking friggin' Spirit's voice! (This, I will here acknowledge, could be the entire source of the problem, and my poor self-image could be the barrier. I know some people in my inner circle will likely make this point, but it does little good unless it can seep into my innermost being.)

A summary statement of the previous paragraph could be this: I pit myself against myself, and therefore I progress rather slowly in my walk with Christ. The result is a predictable pattern of increment success and failure, and it might even be argued that the best of my good behaviour lacks sincerity or heart. And at this point, I would like to consider God's feelings in all this.

As I have already noted, God loves me. I must, therefore, in my service for Him, act as if I love myself. By default. Yet I can't help but feel on occasion that if God truly loved me as the Scriptures claim, I would actually perceive His instructions for my life. If, on the other hand, God has determined that for the present season I am to work a 9-5 job that discourages me, bury myself in theological readings, and spend a whopping amount of time by my lonesome, where Satan finds me and jabs his megaphone into my ears with instructions that I would like to tempt myself into thinking are of God, then what precisely is God doing to help me out of my present circumstance? I won't lie here; I'm sick of this back and forth, this tension between good and evil. I would really love to just stop the fighting and rest. I truly hope it's just a temporary rut, but right now I feel entirely willing to step out of the reality that is this struggle and let the good and evil forces fight for possession of me. Ironically, even though God is the stronger contender, my understanding suggests the devil would get me by default. But what is an eternity of damnation to someone that doesn't care for himself at the lowest level of his consciousness? Again, I have reason to indulge sin, but for my unshakable desire to do the will of the Holy Spirit. And that, my friends, is my present conundrum.

Why is it that, if God dwells inside me and Satan calls to me from a distance, it feels like the opposite is true? Or maybe I was just plain right when I said I would be content to forget yesterday ever happpened. Anyway, prayers welcome. I don't actually want to fail here. It just feels like it would be so natural is all.

2 Comments:

Blogger Slave Morality said...

I guess we don't really get guarantees on having things easy in a lot of our areas including work and temptation, that challenge may be the whole point. I expect it can take a long time to find out what the purpose is behind your circumstances or even what path you're intended to follow. It's gotta be there though. And keep in mind there's only a degree you can possibly fail, the whole process is a series of accomplishments and setbacks, I think for all of us.

16/6/08 09:21  
Blogger James said...

My search for truth started well before I became a Christian. I might even suggest it started the moment I was born, but I only identified it later in life. And the truth, through my lens, can be a shifty thing. On the one hand, I am compelled to think that the truth is an honest and accurate assessment of what is happening in actuality, in which case I am a sinner and can justify hating many things about myself, if not to the extend of hating the whole being. But then the Bible offers another spin on the narrative, which says that this world is not a clear lens through which the truth can be viewed, that Jesus Christ is not just the embodiment of God but also of the truth, and that we have spirits within us that know this but seem to have no way of genuinely communicating it to our minds, which lack the capacity to know truth. Can we perceive facets of reality? Yes, though limited, we have been given a capacity to understand perceivable events and objects. Is there a truth that runs through the whole machine and permanently affects all its pieces? I believe so. I just can't rationalize these two nuggets: I intend to serve Christ; I often betray Him. Being so grounded in logic, I find it hard to think that God looks upon us and sees what we could be if we'd accept every fibre of His plan for us. Conversely, I see what I am, not what I might have been. This one is a doozy for me. By that reasoning, God either transcends logic or is utterly illogical. Or perhaps He condescends to the fact that He's eternal and our present order is temporary. Maybe He's the one being pulled in two directions, and I'm just arrogant enough to think it's me who's stretched thin with this stuff.

16/6/08 10:21  

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