I don’t think I’ll ever forget a lie I told when I was about 16 years old. It was one of those classic teenage pre-mediations crafted to manipulate my way around getting to do something that my parents never would have said, “yes” to. My best friend had told her parents that she was spending the night at my house, while I had told mine that I was sleeping at hers.
Nothing momentous happened that night. There isn’t some great and crazy memorable story to recount about the events that transpired. We had simply hung out, well past any reasonable hour, under the moonlight where the Atlantic Ocean met the shore off of A1-A Beachfront Avenue. Later on, we spent the rest of that night on the floor of another friend’s house.
So what was so unforgettable about that night then? The reality was that I didn’t enjoy a single minute of it. I had plastered a carefree smile on my face, and my feet had danced along following suit – but my insides were knotted up in misery. I actually didn’t sleep one wink. And I counted every minute of the hours that passed until the sun rose and I could go home to breathe a sigh of relief.
I have a vivid recollection of my torment from having been deceptive that night. It has never left me. I remember it well more than 25 years later. To my 16 year-old-self it read as guilt. My 42-year-old spirit recognizes it as conviction.
In our humanness – we transgress. We transgress against others and ourselves. Others transgress against themselves and us. And in this transgressing we end up crossing the boundaries God clearly set forth for each of us; God-given directives to guide us along the path in living into and out of our own Divinity as well as honoring one another’s … so that we ultimately reflect His Goodness and point others towards Him.
“We are all sinners. “
This was one of my biggest takeaways from the Sunday School teachings growing up. That, and the knowledge that the man depicted hanging by nails on a wooden cross was the Son of God, and he came to take away the sin of the world… mine, yours and everyone else’s in between.
However, I feel the indisputable fact of these statements can almost seem to reduce any of our wayward actions and choices to a simplistic inevitability of our humanness. But consider any one of these words:
Rage, Wrath, Hostility, Greediness, Gluttony, Lust, Pornography, Adultery, Promiscuity, Pride, Ego, Vanity, Resentment, Slander, Gossip, Jealousy, Addiction, Blaspheme, Idolatry, Dishonesty, Thievery, Bitterness, Obsession…
Which of these words seemed to pierce you like a barb, or perhaps took your breath away – in a bad way? Did one feel like it hit a nail on the head, or welled up a current of sorrow or shame?
Whether you were on the inflicting end or the receiving end, if you felt any sharpness within, it will have reminded you that sin is not benign, no matter how universal and common it is.
Some of Jesus’ final words on this earth included a plea to our Heavenly Father for forgiveness on our earthbound behalves because, ignorant of their full weight, we do these things. All of us.
And so not long after His time on the cross, Jesus bequeathed us the Holy Spirit; A Friend and an Advocate with all the power to remind us of what He came to earth to exemplify and teach us. All of us.
I honestly don’t recall spending a proportionate amount of time in Sunday School talking about the Holy Spirit and what it produces. Thankfully though, my children are being educated on it ... in a Summer Bible School in Jamaica … and in their Small Group at Embrace. And I’m on it too! The key words from this The Message version of Galatians 5: 22-24 are up on the big chalkboard in our home. All with the hope that the conversations, and this current visual reminder, will help sow it into their hearts and make them equally aware of this Truth.
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”
My experience is that these particular fruits cannot be manufactured. They are beautiful consequences of the indwelling seeds planted in all of us. For example, I can honestly say any self-control I’ve ever been able to exhibit in times of bitter confrontation has not been of my own personal strength. Any peace I’ve ever felt in life’s most brutal moments has, indeed, transcended any of my understanding.
This decision and attempt to be an emulator of Christ has been, at times, the most heartbreaking existence, and at others, the most freeing. His Divine example is both painful and awe striking. My attempts to reconcile it all and follow suit are awkward, imperfect but with rewards that are beyond comprehension. And while we seem to find inexhaustible ways to sin against each other and ourselves, I know there is also an infinite capacity for holiness that exists within us all … we need only to seek His will above our ways.
Whether we are feeling conviction or experiencing liberation throughout the living of our lives, these internal disturbances and stirrings are reassurances to me that God and His Spirit are most certainly with us … and never have they been, nor ever will they be, far away.