Thoughts on Walking With God, Part 6

This’ll be the final installment on all of this…finishing up the fourth question remaining from yesterday’s installment dealing with mortification. That is, if we’re dead to sin, why do we struggle with it? And, if we struggle with it, what are we supposed to do about it. That’s what we’ll deal with today.

Here we go…and Dr. Hannah’s comments italicized or in quotes. Mine are in plain text.

The main question of the last half-hour of session #3: “How do I pursue that responsibility of putting sin to death?”

“Most people are bothered by symptoms and consequences of sin rather than causes.” I’ve found this to be very true in the past as I dealt with anger. I wasn’t necessarily concerned with the sin itself. I was more concerned with the feelings of the person that I’d hurt. I was much more concerned with the state of the relationship. I was much more concerned about whether or not I was “right” and hence, “justified.” I could even be concerned about the state of the steering wheel I’d banged on rather than the sin itself. Rarely was I thinking about the cause of anger or why I was even angry. But I know I spent about 5 years concerned about the consequences of my anger rather than the anger itself. I could apologize and restore relationships but never really deal with the main issue and that pattern would continue for years.

“Be a student of yourself. Temptation is not sin. Giving in to temptation is sin. So, the key is to know how & when you’re solicited.” This comes pretty easily for me. I’ve always been prone to introspection, so doing a “post-game” analysis on my choices is usually pretty effective.

Continuing the example of anger…I learned that I’m a person who abides by rules and all that. You know. Like if I have 12 items I don’t use the 10-item express lane. If there’s a traffic jam, I’ll never use the shoulder to get to the exit more quickly. If there are sign-ups and deadlines, I’m a stickler. When the movie theatre tells me to turn off my cell phone, I do it. So, my temperature rises when others don’t follow “the rules.” Seriously, these things can set me off.

And, because I know this, I’ve learned to apply the following that Dr. Hannah mentioned…

Practical steps:

“Stop. Think about the possible consequences of what you’re about to do.” I do this. Let’s say I was about to pop off to some lady with 20 items in the 10 item line while I”m standing in a longer line next to it with my 14 items. For all I know, she’s got a hot temper herself and might decide to punch me in the face. Headline: Local Pastor In Altercation Over Nothing. Or, what good would it do to yell and shake my fist at the driver who cut me off? Or, worse, what if I did that and it was somebody from my church? Stuff like that. Like I said, I’m pretty good about this…but it took a lot of practice.

“Consider the patience of God.” Frankly, I don’t do this much at all. It isn’t, nor has it ever been, much of a motivator for me. It just sits on my hard drive and I’m glad about it, but it doesn’t help much in the moment of choice for some reason.

“Remember that sin never pays long term dividends in our lives.” This is where personal experience and watching the experiences of others tends to pay off. For example, when I was at university and living in the fraternity house, it was widely known that I, ahem, had never had sex. And, let’s just say that my friends made that particular thing very enticing. Usually, about the time I’d begin to re-think my views, I’d take a look at the results of my friends’ decisions. There were psycho girls throwing rocks through their windows. There were pregnancy scares. There were STD’s. For some reason I was able to, and still seem to, be able to find that “risk-reward” thing easy to assess. Interestingly, I’m at an age where many of my friends and acquaintances seem to be failing to do that. They’re mistaking a very temporary pleasure and doing tremendous damage to their wives and families all because of the temptation of what they think is “greener grass” in other yards. This very thing is the reason I got four of my five tattoos. Permanent reminders of this very reality.

“The sin that troubles me, is not the sin that causes the problem. It is often the symptom, not the cause. We should ask ourselves what is behind this sin? What can I learn about myself and what’s going on and ‘why’ I did it? We should attack the main causes…those things hidden deep in our minds that we hid so we could avoid the pain of them. Reflection over time tends to make these known.” Continuing with my anger illustration. When my father died unexpectedly when I was 13, well-meaning people told me all about God’s plan and how my dad was in heaven and all that. I remember those statements vividly. But you know what? For a kid who has an innate sense of fairness and rule following…well, this wasn’t FAIR. My dad (and we had a very good relationship to the degree a kid can have with their dad). And it hurt not having a dad around for stuff that a kid needs a dad around for. And, at that time, I’m not sure I had the acumen to verbalize that it hurt. And I missed him. And that I couldn’t stand the pity well-meaning others gave us. I didn’t like the strife it caused between my mom and my dad’s family. I didn’t like the changes in my own home…from having a “normal” home to becoming what was once called a “latchkey” kid. And, well, because anger felt better than pain, well, that’s how I got there. It took years to get to that point, though. What took me two minutes to write took about a decade to deal with and get to the root of. And, manalive, I’m glad I see the root causes now.

“Take on one or two sins to work on. Fight against it with the ingredients discussed in vivification. It’s not rocket science.” Again, if we decide to take on too many we’ll get overwhelmed, get discouraged, and go back into old patterns. So, I’ve got one area that I found that was actually a surprise to me…gluttony. I’m still too close to it to really give you much insight, but it’s the one I’ve decided to work on right now. And, I’m in process of figuring out the depth of it and the causes of it. Interestingly, as per usual, I was much more attentive to the symptoms of it…and certainly the consequences of it. We’ll see how it goes and what transpires.

So, that’s the end of our little re-calibration, folks. I like to do things like this as things slow down a little at work…and thanks for allowing me to walk through it in our little public Diner forum, patrons. Even though not many of you seemed very excited by it, you’ve all been very patient with me. I’ll get back to business as usual tomorrow.