I heard a sermon where the pastor made reference to Paul’s lament of not being able to control his inner beast:
Romans 7:21 – 24 So I find this law 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?
Those most honest with themselves, especially Christians, will sometimes despair, like the ‘Super Apostle’ Paul, of ever being rescued from the struggle. I think we ASSUME that eventual sanctification will rid us of this ‘can’t be me version!’.
Even contemporary cultural icons like Johnny Cash could recognize the battle within: His song ‘The Beast In Me’ chronicles his struggle to tame the evil self within. Lyrics to his song
My beast came out in a hurtful way a couple of days ago. My mother-in-law is with us this week. Driving back from a lovely outing to Biltmore, she and I were dancing around social issues and lightly touching the topic of her denomination when one of its prominent former leaders came up. She made me chuckle when she called him a name that I would NOT have expected from the lips of an 85-year old dignified lady!
My choice when I got home was to:
- tell Mike privately so he could share my smile
- tell Mike in her presence as we were fixing dinner
Even though I KNEW that by raising it publicly I risked opening up a can of worms – i.e. discussion about areas of disagreement between Mike and his mom, the beast within me carried the day.
And the pattern I predicted bore its sour fruit. My dad used to call what I did - ‘pulling wings off of flies’ (that deliberate engaging people in their soft spots with the intention of provoking and hurting them.)
As Mike and his mom engaged, his emotions got the better of him and the tenor of his voice changed in intensity and volume. His mother criticized his MANNER of discussing the issue and he reacted to her criticism like he was a teen at home and the atmosphere got awkward. I changed the subject feeling remorse and shame, knowing all along that I had deliberately set Mike up.
As you might have surmised, this is not the FIRST time I have deliberately stirred the pot with my poisonous words.
Those wonder-filled, power-affirming 2 words: as I repented and asked for forgiveness from my heavenly Father the next morning on my walk, I started praying for my husband’s heart and for his relationship with his mom. I could tell that he had gone to bed bothered and sad. We hadn’t talked about it. But I know him. And worse….I KNEW what I had done.
Later during that next day, I asked him if he were alright. And he mentioned he was still bothered by the previous night. As I had been praying for his heart, I just offered the suggestion that if he were to approach his mom and apologize for raising his voice, she might be so startled at this new behavior. And who knew just how God might use that softer side of Mike? I offered this glimpse of his mom’s possible reaction and a way to clear the air as a suggestion.
He later reported to me that he had done the very thing….and felt better.
I re-learned two facts:
- I need continually to be praying that only what is KIND, true and necessary be what comes out of my mouth. The corollary to THAT is that I must not forget that my first inclination at times is to do what is NOT loving and pleasing to my Father.
- God IS able to use all our sin for our good and His glory. Not that we should sin on freely, but that we don’t have to despair each time the beast pops his ugly head out – unbidden.
Returning to Paul’s admission of his personal on-going struggle with his wicked nature, the comforting reminder in Romans 7 picks up with his question in verse 24b – Who will rescue me from this body of death?
verse 25 - THANKS BE TO GOD – THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!
*I’m thankful that I still have a few more days to practice kindness with my mom-in-law, relying on God to give me both the desire, the will and the strength to keep the beast tied up!