Grace and peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. Save me from myself.
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise … I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway … Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”Romans 7:15-25
It is one of the most profoundly freeing passages in the Bible.
Mythology of the human endeavor
It may not feel like it at first glance. After all, who likes to describe themselves as someone who has had ‘something go wrong deep within them’?
We have so bought into the mythology of the human endeavor. That myth that says we are free to create our own story, our own history, our own destiny. Facebook and Instagram are built on that. “See what a fantastic life I’ve built for myself… aren’t you impressed?”
By the way, ‘creating your destiny’ is an oxymoron… but that’s another rant left best to a later time.
We have so bought into the mythology of the human endeavor. That myth that says we are free to create our own story, our own history, our own destiny. And it is killing us. Again, look at what social media is doing to our youth.
But here is Paul, writing these words: “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”
I don’t know about you, but I find these words incredibly freeing. Finally, here is some brutal honesty that speaks not to my superficial hopes and dreams, my Facebook and Instagram pages, but to the profound depths of my pain and sadness about myself.
The buck stops here
I know where the fault lies in who I have become. I know where the buck stops. It is not in the other. It is not in them. It is not in those people. That is the easy cop out.
“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”
To paraphrase Pogo, “I have met the enemy and it is me.”
When we talk of being saved, we so often talk of being saved from others, or something outside of ourselves. Something out there in the world. That is where evil lies… in the other. That is what must be defeated… the other.
But Paul speaks of the need to be saved from oneself.
I might be able to save myself from others, but who will save me from myself? I think that concept is so foreign to us and our society. After all, we are not in bondage, we are not the ones who need help. We are not the ones who need to be defeated. We are strong, sturdy, and free to do as we wish. And we should act like it. Just check our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Is Christianity a crutch?
I remember a few years ago, Jesse Ventura, then governor of Minnesota, made the statement that Christianity was for losers, weak people. “Christianity is a crutch,” I believe is how he put it.
And what intrigued me was not so much his statement as the reaction from Christian quarters. So many were angry, upset, infuriated. “Christianity is not for losers and weaklings. Christianity is for winners. It is not a crutch!” many said.
Well, those people were right about one thing. Christianity is not a crutch. It’s not. It’s a gurney. And on it die all the hopes, dreams, and myths of the human endeavor.
You know… that we are the captain of our ship. That we are the master of our fate (another oxymoron).
Maybe that’s why these days I find the most… and words fail me here… I find the most grounded people, the most whole – dare I say ‘holy’ people… I find those people to be the ones who have gone through some kind of death and resurrection experience. These are the heroes of my faith these days.
They have confronted their mortality due to some physical illness or struggle. They have faced the death of their free will over and against some kind of addiction. They have recognized that their greatest struggle has not been with the outside world, but within their very body and spirit.
Christianity is not a crutch for them. It was the gurney upon which they died to self and were raised to a new life.
Who will save me from myself?
Perhaps that’s why I think it is interesting how Paul ends this passage: “Who will save me from this body of death?” Or, “Is there no one who can do anything for me?”
What is interesting is that Paul doesn’t answer his question with “Christ will,” “Jesus will,” “God will.”
No, he simply says, “Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.” Or, “Thank God … Jesus Christ can and does.”
In other words, Christ isn’t GOING TO save us. Christ has already saved us. It’s done. It’s over. To quote Jesus as he hangs from the cross, “It is finished.”
It’s almost as if Paul is saying that in spite of my sinning, God’s grace and mercy stand over me. In spite of all of my inner turmoil and struggles, God’s peace stands over me. In spite of me doing all the things I know I shouldn’t do, and not doing what I know I should do, God’s forgiveness still stands over me.
It is that word which can free me to look at myself in an honest way. It is that word that can free me to confront my innermost demons. This is what grace does. It frees me to look at myself without fear of reprisal. It frees me to be honest with myself and others.
My dear friend Henry Rojas likes to tell those in recovery that their True Self is not the self that wants to drink. That’s their false self. Their True Self is the self that wants to ‘not’ want to drink. And as he talks about the ever-present grace of God in their lives, they are freed to honestly confront that false self and know that there is a True Self that is loved and held by a gracious and forgiving God.
These words of Paul could have been written by every person in recovery I have ever met. Those in recovery know what the rest of us are afraid to admit. That we all are addicted to something… being right, being enough, being in control. We are addicted to our standard of living or our station in life. We all could write these words if we were honest with ourselves… as we pursue things in our lives which are not healthy for us, but which society says is normal and acceptable.
Yet, those in recovery know and can speak these words because they have connected to their Higher Power.
There is no way one can speak the words of Paul without knowing there is something greater than one’s brokenness. There is no way for one, or reason for one, to speak of one’s pain if there is not something greater. It is this grace that allows us to lose all pretense and defensiveness in our lives. There is something greater, someone greater, who can pick up the mess we have made of our lives and transform it into something healthy and whole… which by the way, is what the word ‘salvation’ or ‘saved’ means in Greek… ‘healing, wholeness.’
Something greater than brokenness
Look at this meal.
Who is going to save the betrayer from himself? Who is going to save the denier from himself? Who is going to save the runawayers from themselves? Who is going to pick up the mess they have made of their lives and transform it into something healthy and whole?
In the night in which Jesus was going to be betrayed… in the night in which Jesus was going to be denied and run away from… in that night, before it even happened, Jesus forgives. Jesus saves the betrayer, the denier, the runawayers from themselves.
Jesus saves them from themselves. Before it even happens.
And so it is for you and me.
Who is GOING TO save us from ourselves?
Well, no one actually…
…Because we’ve already been saved. It’s done. It’s over. It is finished.
“Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.”
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud