Yes, Mr. Simon, I am also guilty of suffering from this condition.
I have been a “Believer” for nearly 18 years. My testimony is available for you to see from when I was “newly reborn” on the About Steven page of this blog. I have read the Bible dozens of times, been involved in Ministry leadership, been on a Council (twice), and acted as Rabbi-Pro-Tem for about a year and a half. I also have a Certificate of Messianic Studies.
And after all that, I am still the same jerk I was before I was saved. I am just a saved jerk.
Why this confession? Last night I had a dream (oh- how I hate dreams sometimes!) and in it I had said something that hurt another person. It wasn’t a break-down-and-cry hurt I caused, it was just the truth spoken truthfully in a way that cut to the bone. I don’t know what I said, but I remember I was justifying and apologizing at the same time, which in real life can’t be done. I have often stated that I am passionate about my beliefs and opinions.
Passionate=discompassionate. At least, in my case.
Recently I have been reading in Shaul’s letters to the Philippians and Ephesians, and realized that passionate discourse doesn’t cut it if it is cutting to someone else. I think I have good ideas, and I am usually ahead of the crowd in meetings when we are discussing how to handle a situation. What I mean is, I will make a suggestion that is straight to the point, without sugar-coating it, and usually it comes across so straight-forward that people don’t understand it because,well, people don’t want to hear truths: they want to hear roses and serenity and everyone loves everyone else, and my answer would have to be, “World Peace!” Then, after about 10 minutes, someone else will say the same thing; it will be “smoothed out” and presented in a tactful and polite manner, and everyone will say, “Ooh- what a good idea.” My wife, Donna, has been with me during some of these meetings. She will look at me and I will look at her and we just smile. Thank God I have gotten to the point where I no longer really need (although I do like) the accolades for having “the idea.”
In any event, it’s nearly two decades later and I am still talking with my New Yorker attitude (Oh yeah? What’s it to ya?) and I should know better. I should know that we are to deal with each other with loving kindness and compassion. That we should think of the other person’s feelings before we think of our own. That we should be forgiving not just in what others have done to us, but in how we treat others who don’t really deserve to be treated nicely. Proverbs says to treat your enemy nicely- to give him food and water and it will be like pouring hot coals on his head. In other words, the enemy will be so surprised that he may stop to think about wanting to be an enemy any more.
They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That may be true, but who wants a bunch of flies hanging around? I would rather get a zapper and listen to them fry.
There, you see? I still think the way I used to, I still talk (less but too much like) the way I used to, and I still have those jokes in my head that got me in so much trouble when I was younger. It’s all still there.
I have prayed and prayed, and asked the Lord to excise the bad parts of my brain that make me think thoughts that aren’t proper, or look at people more like produce than images of God, and I asked Him, over and over, why he won’t just make it all go away. I told the Lord I want to give it up to Him: Please, take it!.
A few years ago he answered me. He said, “It doesn’t work that way.” And I knew what He meant. He was telling me that I need to learn to surrender to the Ruach, to learn to draw on it rather than allow my own thoughts and desires to rule what I say and think and do. And the reason why was because if God was to simply take away the parts I don’t want, how would I ever learn to rely on His Spirit for strength. And when the Day of Judgement comes, and the Tribulations are here, I will need to draw on the strength of the Spirit to survive. My life, and yours, should be Boot Camp for the End Days.
Shaul said that when he is weak, then he is strong. That’s because in our weakness God’s strength is made manifest. It’s another one of those spiritual truths that non-spiritual people think to be foolish: it is my weakness that makes me strong. Not because I am strong, but because God is all-powerful, and when I get out of His way (i.e., die to self) then through me He can do remarkable things.
When I am strong, God cannot do as much.
I am getting weaker, I see it, but like losing weight it is slow to work, and quick to fail. I can gain 3 pounds in a sitting, and it will take three weeks to lose it, only to get it back again. I just can’t seem to get it to pick up speed and keep going down.
I have the same problem with dying to self. I can do it sometimes, but I keep making these stinking lousy recoveries!
How’s your spiritual health? Are you dead to the world and alive and kicking in the Lord? If you are, Hallelujah for you! Really. There is great encouragement in seeing people who have been successful in allowing the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to fill them. It reminds me that there is still a prize to be won.
If you, like me, are not yet in that crowd, don’t despair. I really am not dissatisfied with myself, I am just impatient. I can find solace in knowing that God will not give me more than I can handle, and that His timing is perfect. And, I trust Him more than I do myself to know when the timing is right. In the meantime, I will keep running the good race and doing what I can.
I may be a jerk, but I am a saved jerk. As we read in Psalm 84, one day in the tent of the Lord is better than a thousand days elsewhere. Even the court jester of old got to live in the castle, so I will be happy in my salvation and grateful to God for whatever improvements I make. Because, when it comes down to it, every step closer to God is worth whatever it takes to get there.
If I take three steps closer to God, then backslide for two of them, I am still one step closer. And if the rest of my life ends up as just one step closer, I will be very happy. So should you.