“For I have the desire to what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing.”
I know I should go to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier, but I don’t. I know I should meditate more on poetic narratives of substance rather than the lives of Olivia Pope and Fitz in Scandal, but I don’t. I know I should snack on blueberries and nuts instead of Matts chocolate chip cookies, but I don’t. And I don’t just know these things, I believe I actually want—or desire—these things. But why can I not follow through with the things that I want? I deeply desire to let go of my Ego to find God, yet I can’t. Like Paul 2000 years ago, I do the things I do not want to do: “I have the desire to what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18).
I cannot carry out all the good I want to do, I cannot will myself to let God be King– but even when I’m deep in the trenches of my own ego, God reveals his Kingship, his Presence.
There was a morning in the recent past (actually, several mornings) when I was just plain crabby. And not just crabby like “kid who missed his naptime temper-tantrum crabby” but I was mean. I am not saying this to condemn myself—because Love does not condemn—I’m simply recording an observation. (Remember- our worth is not what we do—and when we realize this we paradoxically begin to behave like we’re worth something.) I was curt, I sighed loudly about little frustrations without explaining why, and thoughts of bitterness and contempt began to loop through my mind. When something didn’t go my way, contempt whispered to me, “It figures.”
This kind of contempt, this kind of bitterness—it deadens my senses. It blinds me to the Grace-Filled reality that surrounds me and creates an altogether deformed and dysfunctional—but no less real—existence. While my physical reality hasn’t changed— I’ve entered an altogether different space. It is the space of the Ego, the space of Contempt, the space of the Lost.
That “mean” morning continued to devolve into an equally depressing and bitter day. Nothing productive happened, and rest itself was not rejuvenating. When evening approached, I sat in the leather rocker in our family room, my skin sticky with sweat from the heat of the day. All three kids were playing on the floor, and for a minute, they were all aligned in my narrow gaze and they were all content.
And perhaps in the time it took for me to blink, or breathe, or press my bare feet yet again to the floor, Grace entered. My vision changed. I entered an altogether different reality. Because in the midst of my selfishness, in the trenches of my Ego– Blessing still reigned. I stared at my kids through fresh, redeeming tears and I experienced how much God loves me—even with all my bitterness, even with all my contempt.
Imagine how you feel immediately after witnessing something truly Good. When a newborn baby’s fingers curl around your own, when your feet touch the shoreline between ocean and sand, when you laugh so hard your belly hurts, or when you realize you are truly safe and known by another human being (you know- that other person that can truly handle you stuff). Things are right with the world in those moments because things are right in you.
Never give up desiring Goodness, even when it seems to continually escape you. Goodness will meet you. Love will meet you. Because God will meet you. By grace you will lose yourself and thereby find yourself, and you will find that for a few more minutes each day you live in the Reality of Grace instead of the Reality of Contempt. You will be on that same worn out cushion that you always sit upon the sofa and you will see things differently, and the space will somehow be different because you will somehow be different.
Do you see? It will be the same world, but a different soul.