Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I keep trying to give up . . . but I am no good at it.

Okay, I need all of you to stay with me for a few minutes on this post today, I have a point, but it may take a minute or two to get to.  Thanks.
So, right now my fingers hurt.  Truth be told they hurt almost everyday.  No, I don't have arthritis or any lamentable condition, except for the fact that I have been biting my nails for as long as I can remember.
So my fingers are sore from the fact that I bite my nails down almost to the bone, I really do and I will be the first to admit that it is pretty gross.  Traci hates that I bite my nails and is always trying to get me to quit, often telling me to 'get your fingers out of your mouth!'  Here is the strange thing though, I really don't want to quit.  
Like I said, I know that it is gross and my fingernails look terrible, plus there is the whole fingers hurting everyday thing.  And for the most part I don't really get any enjoyment - certainly no long term enjoyment - out of biting my fingernails.  But there is the moment, the exact moment when I bite my nails, that there is some sort of psychological or emotional enjoyment out of it.  Strangely, this momentary enjoyment is almost intensified if I have just been told not to do it.  
So I can say that I would like to say that I do want to stop, but I don't seem to act that way.  To this end I have given up biting my nails for Lent - I know not exactly a sacrifice, but it is worth a shot.  Over the past week it is amazing how many times I find my fingers in my mouth without even realizing it.  Again, gross, I know.  I am doing okay, but far from perfect.  
Each time I 'catch' myself about to start biting my nails there is this instant where I have to make a decision: do I stop - and avoid the instant of gratification, but a tiny bit closer to who I want to be and how I want to act or do I give in and bite away, which gives me the instant of satisfaction but leaves me not only with guilt but with the consequences of my actions - hurting fingers, gross looking hands, a wife annoyed with my nervous habit, etc.  
As I was thinking about this today, I read Romans 7:    
 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.   21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Interesting parallel, no?  I don't think Paul's issue or struggle was with biting his nails, and of course my biggest real struggles aren't either.  But there are parallels here.  In each of our lives we get stuck in patterns of behavior where we do the things we don't want to do and we don't do the things we know we should or the things we actually want to do.  
Sin is all about deception.  While it can sometimes feel good, that feeling never lasts and sin always comes with consequences.  
Romans 7 continues like this:

 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
   So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

It may not always seem like it, but we always have a choice: a choice to give into the sinful nature living within us or to accept and rely on the love, grace and power of Jesus Christ and the law of God that is at work within us.  
It is a choice that we make a hundred times a day, and each choice has consequences.  Each time we choose to rely on God we grow closer to God and also closer to who we are supposed to be.  Each time we give into sin we allow ourselves to become more enslaved by the very sin we seek pleasure from.  
As Paul says we are indeed wretched, but the good news of the gospel is that there is no bond of sin that is beyond the power of Jesus Christ to break and it only takes one choice to rely on God to set us right and on God's path of freedom and destiny for our lives. 
The choice is ours.  As for me, I am hoping for fingernails and pain-free hands.  Amen.

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