I Do The Very Thing I Hate

There’s a puppy in our house.

Earlier this week, we rescued an abandoned young puppy from the side of the road and brought it home while we try to find the owners or a new home. And despite the repeated warning to not get attached, the kids have fallen head over heels. They’ve named his Despereaux. (Yes, like the little mouse in the movie.)

Despereaux is devastatingly adorable, affectionate, and addictive. He’s a heart thief. But, Despereaux has no manners. Like most pups, he chews things, he piddles in the house, and he makes messes. The word “NO” has been commonplace these last few days. “No biting. No chewing. No piddling.” After the eleventy-eighth “NO,” my ten year old son asked quizzically, “How do they learn what ‘no’ means anyway?”

I answered: “Repetition and training, repetition and training.”

Training a puppy reminds me of training my own heart and mind. When we first come to know Jesus, we are forgiven and we are redeemed, but we are not perfected. We are given God’s desires and guidelines via the Bible, which we can study and memorize. But we are not immediately good at following all of God’s ways.

Like the puppy, we are rescued, brought into God’s family, cared for and loved, and then we must train our hearts and minds through repetition and training to live the kind of life God wants us to live. It’s not a quick and easy process. Some things will be easier to learn, other things will take more time. And there will always be room for improvement. Many times, we will make mistakes, doing what we know we ought not to do.

Paul speaks of this struggle in Romans 7. He says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Verse 15.) Paul goes on to explain:

For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:18a-20)

You see, Paul recognizes the struggle between our sin nature buried deep within our DNA, and the nature of the Holy Spirit who resides within us. The Spirit teaches and convicts us, and yet our flesh desires to do what we should not do.” Have you ever gotten angry and yelled some truly mean words that you KNEW you should not say, and then immediately regretted it? That’s just one way the battles wages on within us. Or have you ever found that when you are working on a particular bad habit, “the world” seems to present an abundance of opportunities to do the wrong thing?

Let me just put it this way: THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

Paul finishes with this: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24) 

So what then? Is the battle hopeless?

NO.

The answer is Jesus. (And repetition. And training.)

The more that we call upon Jesus to guide us and help us, the more that we practice the ways that God would have us follow, the easier it will become to do the right thing. When we mess up, we get right back up and keep practicing doing the right thing. Over time, we will find that we are able to govern our hearts more reliably in those areas, and then most likely, we will discover new areas to train. But do not despair when you find that you have things to work on, we all do. To train ourselves to live for God all the time is just exactly how we are to live our lives for God. So keep training!

Image Credit: Public Domain

Amber Oliver

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