For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
(Thank you Peter Dusan, for the insights I needed to write this blog!)
Five year old Joey pushes his classmate out of the way to get to the front of the line. He is competitive and likes to have his way, even at the risk of strong consequences. He is enthralled with stories about war, about Star Wars, and super heroes. He is interested in battle. Deep within Joey, another war is taking place, a battle waging in his heart – one that pushes and pulls at him toward both naughty and nice deeds.
In the same way, thirteen year Cynthia is prone to gossip, and spreads lies about her friend Andrea who is “in love” with the same guy. Cynthia rationalizes her loose tongue by focusing on finding fault with Andrea. Doing so makes her numb to the discontentment that accompanies her own self- centered ways. She prefers to ignore the tug-of-war taking place within her heart and fights with others.
Then there’s 45 year old Don who is involved in a standing affair with his female co worker. He looks forward to out- of- town work trips which offer him excitement via his secret love life. Dissatisfied with life, Don finds little contentment in his over-the-top efforts at work, nor at home where he is merely passively engaged with his wife and kids. Strong and pretentious on the outside, his inner life is a heap of brokenness and dissatisfaction- the aftermath of losing over and over in the battlefields of his heart. What does it hurt to massage his troubled soul with the intimacy of a private affair as long as his family doesn’t know?
All three – Joey, Cynthia and Don know what they are doing is wrong.
Yet they rationalize and find excuses for their actions.
All three are involved in a battle within their hearts.
Just like you and me.
We know what it feels like to not do what we should and to do what we should not do.
The concept of goodness is innate within us by the fact that we are created in the image of the triune God. (Genesis 1:9) Yet, we don’t consistently walk in it and instead suppress the truth about God by unrighteousness. (Romans 1:16) Created in the image of God, we have an understanding of what it means to be good, but until we surrender to Jesus, we are broken, miserable, discontent, trying to be good enough on our own as god of our own lives.
It’s a tug-of-war.
We are pulled in opposite directions- a tension within. We can either surrender to Jesus or resist him over and over, suppressing the truth until our “foolish hearts become darkened.” In darkness,truth becomes obscure and we begin to call “evil good and good evil, and substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.” (Isaiah 5:20)
This tug-of-war exists within each of us and within each of our children. It’s why parents see goodness in their children, but also rebellion. We try to corral them in the “good side” with rules and lectures but these serve mostly to point to the error in their ways while doing little to transform the heart, or form lasting obedience.
Only Jesus can win the battle within.
We would be wise as parents to help our children comprehend this inner battle, training them in self evaluation and inner reflection, while consistently pointing them to Jesus who willl lead them to lasting victory.
Joey happens to be my almost six year old grandson. He can be delightfully good and fun but he can also be obnoxiously thoughtless, unexpectedly doing unkind things to others. His desire to be in control is strong but I also see his desire to please. We recently chatted about this inner battle within his heart. He had a good day at school yesterday. “Oma,” he said happily, “ a couple times today at school, I almost did something naughty but I thought about Jesus and prayed that he would help me be good and then I was good all day long.”
I pray for Joey every day, mostly that he comes to comprehend that the source of goodness is Jesus, who is alone can win the battle in his heart, and guide him out of war and into lasting peace and steadfast right living.
(Romans 7:14-25 NASB)
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.