Beginning Prayer: Show me your way, teach me your path, guide me in your truth.
Passage for today: Romans 7:7-13
Is it just me or is Paul HILARIOUS?! This passage cracks me up. (See, now all of you who thought you might skip your reading today are going to go back and reading it, aren’t you?) I actually don’t know if he’s trying to be funny here, but basically, what he’s saying here is, “Ignorance is bliss. I liked it better when I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong. I was awesome then. Then I could just be like, ‘I didn’t know any better!’ But now, I realize all the stuff I thought was awesome was actually self-centered foolishness, and that’s kind of a bummer because I kind of liked living that way!”
Ever been there? Sometimes we don’t realize how dark our lives are until we get exposed to the light. And that’s what Paul is saying here. The rules and boundaries and laws God has set up aren’t the problem, they just show me what the problem is: me.
This is actually one of the biggest reasons I have the faith in God and believe He is real: I can’t find another reason why I know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Even if I didn’t have the amazing gift of godly parents who raised me to believe Him and so many years of ups and downs learning to know and trust Him, and so many evidences of His hands molding and shaping my life, I would still have some concept that His way is right and good. I would still know what evil looked like. I would still have a sense of justice. I would still feel moved when I saw poverty and brokenness and pain. Why?
C.S. Lewis explains it this way, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?...If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning...I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
That’s what Paul is saying too. The goodness of God’s law that exposes how much we’re incapable of following it; it’s God’s purity that exposes our failure. He’s like, “I liked rules better when I didn’t know I was breaking them all!” See why it’s kind of funny now?
But what we’re learning is, we don’t mind the law and God’s rules and boundaries, because we know that we’re not bound by them. We’re living in that grace place where our obedience is motivated by trust, our change is gratitude driven, and we’re experiencing true freedom. But, let’s talk about what’s not always easy about this that sometimes keeps us stuck.
Sometimes, when we start living a new way, WE are the light that makes the dark uncomfortable. That’s why, today I want you to know that you have permission to succeed. I don’t know about you, but a lot of times my old habits have good company, and sometimes when I start making healthy choices and better habits, it starts to mess with the people around me.
When I set healthy boundaries, it means they can’t manipulate me anymore. When I decide to put my family first, it means I might have to say no or cut back on all the things I did outside of my family. When I choose to stop a behavior that’s harmful to me, it might make the people around me who don’t want to stop yet a little annoyed, a little uncomfortable, a little irritated--a little exposed.
I mean, have you ever thought about how the other caterpillars must feel when their buddy suddenly becomes a butterfly? Maybe it’s not nice? I mean picture it, a big ‘ol caterpillar sitting on a leaf, gorging himself out; he looks up, and he’s like, “Hey, is that Julie?” Then all the other fat caterpillars come around, and they’re like, “Who does she think she is flying around like that? Fluttering and flaunting those wings...no WAY she can be a butterfly…I’ve known her since she was a larvae! I know where she’s been...no way can she be free.” Some of them are like, “Hey...what are you doing way up there? Didn’t you have fun when it was just you and me down here on this pitiful leaf together?”
And the same thing happens to us. Our light, our progress, our change starts to make other people uncomfortable, so we start to pull back and think, “Yeah, who DO I think I am. What AM I doing?” and we land back on the leaf and start acting like a caterpillar, even though we’ve got wings to FLY!!
Here’s the thing. Not one of us is responsible for anybody else’s freedom; we are only responsible for our own surrender. And today, you have permission to succeed. Is there anybody in your head that is keeping you from being free to fly? Check out this quote I read from Beth Moore the other day, “Two in a pit is not better than one. Resist the draw to jump in it with them to pull them out. Throw in a rope instead and accept that you can’t make them grab it. We can test our level of codependency by how mad they get and how guilty we feel when we don’t get in the pit with them. Would you not have rescued them long ago if you could??? Tell them how much you care, how limited you are, who the Rescuer is, then pray and, for crying out loud, get out of the Rescuer’s way! There is no relief on earth like firing yourself from trying to do God’s job. Clock out.”
Some of us have got to care more about what God has for us in our flight soaring to new places of freedom than all the other caterpillars in the peanut gallery have to say about how they never thought we could make it this far. Clock out. Release the job of waiting on anyone else to get well. It’s YOUR day to walk out of your cell and live the free life God has for you.
God, give me courage. Give me courage to become all you have called me to be and to not be afraid of what anyone else thinks about it. I know you have created me to SHINE, and I won’t hold back my new light to keep everyone else comfortable. Help me to walk humbly; I know I need few words to share what you’ve done; let my life speak it all.
Write an encouraging email or letter to someone you’ve seen made a lot of progress. You pick, but let’s be the kind of people that when we see change in our sisters, friends, spouses, kids, neighbors and coworkers, we are the loudest ones in their cheering section, not the pitiful bugs binging on a leaf.
(See if you can commit to memory, or commit to remember, this verse this week.)
“We have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”(Romans 7:6, NLT)