Wednesday, January 4, 2006

"God damn the black night ..."

Once again--and on a seemingly not-too-infrequent basis--I'm forced to reckon with just how far short of graceful, pure living I can fall. I'll think or say or do something wrong, varying from a mere moment's connivance to the downright icky. Sometimes I come to my senses quickly enough, get on my knees and pray, and confess the sin to God and to a roommate or the offended party. But how often I instead prefer not to deal with it, shrug it off as having been already forgiven through Christ, and lurk around the day with dark cloud over my head!

Either Jesus or the apostle John (it's not totally sure; I favor the latter) is recorded as saying that "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3.19-20, emphasis mine because I think fear is the most crippling thing in our lives). Some fundies will get all super twisted and make it seem like "the unbelievers" totally run and reject even the notion that we can be sinful or that something's wrong with them. But check out these lyrics from "We Looked Like Giants" by Death Cab For Cutie:

God bless the daylight, the sugary smell of springtime
Remembering when you were mine
In a still suburban town

When every Thursday I'd brave those mountain passes
And you'd skip your early classes
And we'd learn how our bodies worked.

God damn the black night with all its foul temptation
I become what I always hated
When I was with you then

We looked like giants in the back of my gray subcompact
Fumbling to make contact
As the others slept inside ...

Do you remember the JAMC
And reading aloud from magazines?
I don't know about you, but I swear on my name they could smell it on me
I've never been too good with secrets.
No ...

How on Earth can Ben Gibbard write stuff like that? It just hurts how much we as people can know what's good and right, what we really desire deep down inside (verse 1), and then in our sin stumble into being the very Mr. Hyde we don't want to be. Or what about Adam Gardner of Guster when he writes, "When I speak I cross my fingers; will you know you've been deceived? I find I need to be a demon; a demon cannot be hurt" ("Demons"). No, the reality is that we do know we're disastrously deceptive and ruinous both to others and ourselves. The pain comes in finding a solution. It forces us to reckon with ourselves a whole lot more than building up layers of coping mechanisms.

Okay, so there was no real flow or point to this post, but it just cuts me in a weird way that all of us can know how screwed up we are, hating ourselves and longing to be restored and honest, yet all the while being passively okay with it if we can just get through another day.

Students of Scripture often wrestle with whether the apostle Paul is speaking from a pre- or a post-regeneration standpoint in Romans 7.13-25. But I think it's actually both, because I see the same struggle in everyone. Paul says, "I find this law [or principle] at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Because by grace he knows his Savior, he can then exclaim, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" It's difficult to think that so many of us--believers and unbelievers alike--all wrestle with these feelings, this inner twisting and wrestling. Along with Paul, I consider myself blessed to be able to say, "Thanks be to God!" because I know Jesus. And I believe that no one can know Jesus without God's free choice and enabling (Luke 10.21-22; John 6.44). On one hand, it makes me marvel at God's gracious, undeserved blessings upon me: that he has given me eyes to see Christ and ears to hear him. But although I concede that his wisdom is infinitely higher than mine, it still irks me that he chooses to only truly reveal his help and salvation to some people and put an end to their painful wondering, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" We deal with an awesome, mysterious God (but not an abstract one!) for sure.

(On another note, though, it's a blessing to see that people don't simply fall into cut-and-dried categories of "prideful" and "humble" or those who run to the light and those who run away. I think it's slowly causing me to take every person as being really real, with a lot of the same yearnings for restoration that I sometimes feel. We're people, with complex emotions and fears, not robots. I can only pray that everyone in the church learns this, too.)

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