I find it comforting to know that Paul, too, struggled. I guess that could be disheartening—“If PAUL struggled, what hope is there for ME?”—but I find it encouraging. Romans 7 is so honest about the human condition: the Law—God’s Way—is all good, and we are not capable of even KNOWING how to follow it. We’ve reduced it to rules, therein missing the entire point. Not only is that the state of all humanity, but Paul adds a personal cry wrenched from his own sense of inadequacy to be GOOD: “O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from the shackles of this body of death?” (Amplified).
But there is much good in being that aware of my helplessness, my need.
One school year a while back, I had a daily running partner, the only time I’ve ever had one. I think God gave us to each other to get through that particular season in our lives. In between the huffs and puffs of one of our runs, Amy, my running partner, said, “It’s helped me to see trust as a circle of light surrounded by darkness. It’s natural for me to stay in the dark, but I have the choice to step into the light. I have to do that over and over again, sometimes minute by minute.”
At that time Amy was in life circumstances in which the darkness outside the
circle was pretty dark. She KNEW when she had stepped out of it because she was almost immediately assailed with discouragement and doubt. I walked (or “ran”-Ha!) with her through this, and a year later when I had a few months of intense waiting on the Lord’s direction, I experienced it myself. I learned to plant my feet in the circle, dig in with my toes.
But sometimes the darkness outside the circle isn’t so instantaneous. Rather than being a plunge into despair or doubt, it’s a creeping into self-sufficiency, idolatry, busyness, a habitual “ok” sin (like anger or discontent), or any sin addiction. I inch my way out of the circle and don’t realize the lights have dimmed until I’m well away from it. These are often the times in my life when things are going “ok, not too bad.” I’m “doing all right.”
Those are dangerous periods in my life.
More than any of my other kids, Patrick wants to know where I am at all times. That may be because he’s the youngest and with me alone more than the others. It may be because of his chaotic life before his adoption. I don’t know, but when he doesn’t know where I am for even a few seconds, he hollers, immediately, “Mom, where are you?”
And when I answer, “I’m right here, Buddy,” he says, “Oh, good, I thought you were gone.”
Sometimes I think, “Really, bud, I’m just in the next room. You could try LOOKING for me.”
But he recognizes my absence, right away, and he knows the quickest way to remedy that is to holler for me.
It’s the same with God. I know He doesn’t ever leave; that’s a promise made firm by the Word. The circle of trust doesn’t move. But I do, and too often I creep, creep away without seeing my gradual movement.
I want to be like Patrick, super-sensitive to the close presence of my Lord. I want to be like Bartimaeus, the blind man in Mark 10, who cried out, not caring what others thought, heedless of his own image, comfortable with his own need: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
That same Jesus, my Jesus, gives me the power to step back into the intimate circle of trusting in His love (Ephesians 3:18-19). He, time and time again, “rescues me from the shackles (the darkness) of this body of death.”
But I have to cry out!
With a sense of my great need,
With eyes fixed on my awesome Deliverer,
Loud, loud, loud,