Do you ever feel like there is a tug-of-war going on inside you? That you are not really the person you appear to be or even long to be? I suspect many of us feel this way, as we are relentlessly bombarded by the New Year’s resolution aids, like organizers, exercise equipment and self-help books, to help us reach our elusive goals.
I often feel like I, myself, am a dichotomy. In case you’re unsure of what that means, here’s how Miriam Webster defines it:
1: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities; the dichotomy between theory and practice; also, the process or practice of making such a division
2: something with seemingly contradictory qualities
Without even delving into my personal virtues–and lack thereof–here are some examples of the dichotomy that is me:
: : Inside, I feel young, full of life and expectation. A peek in the mirror and various aches and pains reveal the harsh reality.
: : I do not like chaotic surroundings. Yet, I have way too much stuff, too much clutter, much too much.
: : I want to be organized. I actually enjoy organizing things. If only I could follow through on keeping things organized…and my family shared my vision.
: : I want to plan everything. I want to have a beautiful, efficient bullet journal. I want to stick to routines and build good habits, have a meal plan with all the ingredients in my fridge and pantry, never forget an appointment. In actuality? I can’t even remember to drink water or take meds.
: : I want to live in a health-conscious manner. I want to like living that way. The reality: I despise exercise (perhaps not entirely, but there’s is almost always something I’d rather do) and I want to eat. all. the. food.
: : I want to be intentional in my relationships. All of them. Phone-calling and text-sending and Facebook-connecting, always knowing just what each one needs at any given moment. How it really looks? Ugh….another missed birthday. Another sympathy card that never made it to the mailbox. Another text where I forgot to hit send. Another day I was ‘too busy’ (with my own stuff) to visit someone or play a game with my kids. Another day of not stopping to really connect with my Love.
: : I want to be a relaxed, fun, patient, and loving home-schooling momma. Real life? Raised voices, panic-stricken-end-of-year-gotta-finish-or-I’m-a-total-failure moments, and crying in the bathroom. (I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but you get the point.)
: : Outside, I may appear outgoing and confident. Strong and ‘well-rounded’. Inside, I am nervous and unsure, insecure and shy.
: : I desire to be a faithful follower of Christ, yet I don’t do the things I should and I do the things I shouldn’t. Even when my desire to serve Him well is high, I often fall short of my aspirations to please Him.
Does any of this sound familiar? If this is true in the earthly facets of my life, how much more distinct are my shortcomings in my spiritual life?
It seems I am in good company. The Apostle Paul, one of the great men of faith, describes this internal conundrum in Romans 7:14-25:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
In his epistle (just a fancy name for a letter) to the Romans he addresses the necessity of the law: the law showed him (and us) of his (and our) sinful nature. As he was born into the world, he was surely born into sin. Who can say, “I’ve never lied”? Who can say, “I’ve never had an impure thought”? I daresay not one. We are told that while I “keep the whole law and yet stumble in just one point, [I am] guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). One sin separates from a holy God. Without this knowledge, I may not see my need for Christ. I’ve veered off topic a wee bit as I give some background to this passage. Back to Paul’s conflict.
Paul shares his own struggles in the contest between his ‘old nature’ (that is who he was before he was a Christian) and his ‘new man’ (the new person he became as a Christian). No matter how he knows and wills to do those things that are good and right, he does not perform those deeds. Vice versa, he knows and wills not to do things that are contrary to God’s commands, yet those are the very acts he commits.
In the face of this battle, he groans, “O wretched man that I am!”
Then he revels in a new fact; he acknowledges that Christ has already done it for him. Christ saved him from the penalty of death in the past, present and future. Christ is his victory.
The Father has given the Son and the Holy Spirit to help me in these very struggles. With His help I may win the battle betimes; or, I may fail. If so, I will find forgiveness and mercy in Christ.
Thankfully, because of Jesus, I do not need to be a slave to the Law. The Law still reminds me of my need–I cannot keep it. However, He, in His death on the cross, fulfilled the Law and is the means of salvation for the sinner. Being a Christian is not about ‘doing everything right.’ It’s loving the One Who loves so perfectly and gave everything for me. Christ is enough for me.
(If this is new to you, you can read more here, and in many posts labeled ‘Faith.’)