Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: temptation

Torn in Two

Tonight is our local writing group’s monthly night to meet. I decided halfway through my work day that I wasn’t sure I would make it. I was sick Monday night and yesterday. Today, I went back to work, but I still wasn’t feeling quite up to par. At the end of the day, I knew I didn’t have it in me to attend. I’ve not eaten much and I haven’t slept well the last two nights. My spirit wanted to go, but my body just didn’t allow it.

I can’t help wondering what they’re doing tonight. Are they reading the latest chapters on their works in progress? Maybe brainstorming ideas for turning the journal pages of one member’s mother into a fictional story? Or they could be participating in one of the great writing exercises Brenda, our host, comes up with to challenge us and get our creative juices flowing. I love those writing exercises.

It’s amazing to me how we can all take the same assignment and turn out completely different results. It gives a lot of insight into our writing styles and personalities. I have to admit a couple of us may tend to take a darker turn with our assignments. They tend toward the serious or mysterious. One writer is almost always rainbows and sunshine. I love sharing what we’ve come up with. It’s encouraging that we can all go different directions and all still be writing well.

Because of this camaraderie and sharpening of each other’s abilities, I find myself sitting here wishing I could be there. At the same time, my eyes are drooping and I can’t keep from yawning. I have no energy. The last remnants of being sick. I know I could not have made it through the evening. But I miss it nonetheless.

We all face those times at points in our lives. We’ve been sick or crazy busy or stressed by whatever happens to stress us out at that particular point in our lives. Whatever is going on, we just can’t do one more thing. The desire is there, but our bodies betray us.

It reminds me of a spiritual problem we too often face. Paul wrote in Romans 7, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” We find out why he battled if we look back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 26. “Watch and pray, let you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was speaking to the disciples about their inability to stay awake and pray with him in his time of need, but it was a lesson much greater than that. Jesus was reminding them, reminding us, of the battle that rages between the natural, sinful man and the new creation that takes place when we accept His work on the cross for the redemption of our sins.

Scripture tells us as believers we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. We have the power to resist because of the Holy Spirit living inside us. But Jesus’ message and Paul’s reiteration of the same message is a warning that it is not easy. We may be made new in Christ, but the world we live and operate in is still mired in the old sinful ways. We are hounded by them. We are tempted by them. And though no believer would start off the day thinking, “I think I’ll spit in the face of my Savior today by choosing sin over His sacrifice”, we find ourselves doing exactly that.

Our spirits want to do what is right, but in our humanness we find we are entirely weak. But even weak we are not without hope. Jesus reminds us to be watchful and prayerful to avoid the trap of temptation. Scripture tells us a way out is always provided if we will only take it. The armor of God is ours to pick up and use faithfully. And the more we exercise it, the better we get at using it for our spiritual protection. But more than these things, we have forgiveness for the times we fail. God is faithful to forgive the repentant heart. He wipes the spiritual slate clean and allows us to start again.

This isn’t a license to sin without thought. By definition a repentant heart desires to turn away from sin. But there is a battle between what our spirit wants to do and what our sinful nature tempts us to do. It’s a battle that even the “greats” of faith like Paul faced. Knowing these things can help us learn to accept the forgiveness God offers with grace when what we want to do and what we end up doing are two very different things.

Dread and the Bad Haircut

haircut-834280__340Have you ever had a bad haircut? If you haven’t, you’re lucky. If you have, do you remember the moment of dread that comes before this experience?

You’ve signed in and are waiting for your appointment. Doubt flickers when the person who calls you looks like their own hair was cut with a weed trimmer. Still, you march bravely forward and sit in the chair. You show the stylist a picture of what you want. You’ve searched the internet for days finding the perfect style. You ask if this cut will work with your hair. You’re assured it will, and the stylist rattles off some simplistic description of your holy grail of hairstyles.

As the stylist picks up scissors to begin working on your transformation, she mentions something that doesn’t make sense.  No, you don’t want only an inch taken off. Your hair is down to the middle of your shoulder blades and the style in the picture barely grazes the shoulders.  On what planet is that an inch?

The tiny doubt you knew when you saw the stylist blossoms into dread. That dread is multiplied as you watch your haircut’s progression. How is this going to turn into the style in the picture? Can that even be possible?

The stylist you see in the mirror is the picture on concentration. And doubt. It’s the doubt that takes your feeling of dread to near panic. You know this is going south at an alarming rate, but there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t walk out mid-cut.  And there’s only so much hair you’re willing to lose.

Why did you come to this salon? Why did you agree to sit in this stylist’s chair? When are you going to learn? You give a weak smile. It’s too late anyway. You pay and leave. Once in the safe confines of your car, you pull out your phone and google how long it will take the bangs that are now two finger widths above your eyebrows to grow back. Then, you reschedule your family pictures for a couple weeks later than that. Next time, you’ll listen to that feeling of dread. Maybe.

Olivia, in A Desperate Love by Jessica McCarty, knows the feeling of dread that comes withMRP-A-Desperate-Love-360x569 poorly made decisions all too well. When her fiancé’s ship is attacked by pirates, Olivia mourns his loss while still maintaining the hope that he lives. When her father and mother decide it’s time she moves on into an arranged marriage, Olivia wants nothing to do with it. Desperation drives her to leave home in disguise. Her choice brings with it apprehension, but Olivia pushes through determined to do what she must to find her fiancé.

When her journey leads her to an inn filled with rough men, she feigns confidence and joins them in their gambling so she can glean information from them. She gets more than she bargains for when a strange offer is put on the table. Join the captain’s pirate crew to help them with a job, and the captain will help find her lost love. Instinct tells Olivia this isn’t a wise plan. She does it anyway.

In her time on ship, Olivia fights the demons of fear inside her, grows from skillful to masterful with a sword, finds bravery she didn’t know she had, and learns what life can be like when you allow yourself to lean on friends. But these revelations don’t keep the dread from popping up every time she’s faced with a new, less than moral choice. Olivia does her best to limit her involvement in the things she knows are wrong while living up to her end of the bargain she struck with the pirate captain. Learning to balance the two is the only way she can hope to save her fiancé.

Olivia faces her moments of dread after each step down the bad paths laid in front of her. While we may not face impossible choices with life or death consequences, I’m sure we’ve all known that catch in our spirit when make a poor choice and veer from the path God intended. It’s that feeling of heaviness that tells us we’re making a mistake. It’s God warning system for His children.

When Jesus was living on earth, He was able to show His followers how He expected them to live. When they made poor choices, Jesus dealt with it. When the disciples let fear steal their peace in the storm, He reminded them to have faith. When Peter denied Jesus, he went out and wept over his failure. When Jesus returned to them after His resurrection, He restored Peter. Jesus was with them to warn them and guide them back when they strayed.

We don’t have Jesus walking the earth with us, but He didn’t leave us alone. Jesus said He would send a helper to live inside every believer. The Holy Spirit would take up residence and work as our teacher, warning system, and the one to guide us back to the right path. When we make a sinful choice or a series of sinful choices, the Holy Spirit is there creating that feeling inside that tells us what we’re choosing is wrong. It’s a gentle nudge that if listened to can help us avoid painful consequences. That gentle nudge becomes a persistent sense of conviction when we stubbornly cling to our chosen path.

It’s not pleasant, but it can’t be. The Holy Spirit means to get our attention. He wants to keep us from sinful choices. It would be wonderful if we listened to the quiet prodding when we felt the first stirrings. Too often we don’t. Then, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us of the sin we’ve let in. This dread or conviction is heavier because the situation demands it. But when we heed the warning and turn back from our sin, God restores and we are freed from the guilt and dread that weighs us down.

© 2020 Heather Greer

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