Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Doing what we are supposed to do

This morning's devotional reading is one of St. Paul's teachings that I really loathe.

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I really don't like this lesson because it often seems so true. I desire to do one thing but my (sub)conscious mind doesn't fully consent to the possibility of choosing good over evil. For example, I want to lose weight and ride my bicycle more often. That's terrific right! However, the lazy, unmotivated part of my brain isn't really interested in such worthy goals. What's that all about??? Paul's teaching suggests my weakness is tied to some sort of bodily ingrained sin. I don't doubt for a second that I make unhealthy desires everyday based upon my own selfish desires and ill-formed habits. I'm nonetheless uncomfortable with the whole original sin theory concept.

Well, yesterday afternoon I come across a really fascinating radio program called Radiolab. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich are hosting a program entitled Help!. They shared wonderful stories about people who made Ulysses contracts in an effort to choose good over evil. One of the main points they and their guests made is that people like me (like you?) have to make the consequences of conflictual decisions more immediate while limiting our natural abilities to compromise. We have to internally "back ourselves up to a cliff." Moreover - our "now" emotions are much stronger than our "later" emotions. Thus, we have to bring these choices into the "now" if we truly desire to provocatively transform ourselves. One other thing, bargaining with ourselves is often an invitation for inviting God's creative energy into the process too.

Those truths reside at the core of the Feeding of the Five Thousand story. Jesus has a choice of whether or not to send the hungry people home or feed them. Now granted, Jesus probably had a much greater dose of self-confidence and faith in God than I do. However, he doesn't hesitate to make a remarkably compassionate decision to feed thousands of people with just a couple of fish and a little bit of bread. He gets it done in all four canonical gospels. He comprehends that the power of his choice will benefit his followers, his neighbors, himself, and God. He has faith that the miracle will indeed happen. Lives will be changed. Good overcomes evil.

I can buy-in to the notion of following Jesus Christ's example and inviting his story, his Wisdom, and his Divine self into my decision making processes. Ultimately though, I need to do so, now while probably making some sort of weird bargain with my conscious mind as well as my eternal soul. I don't know what that's all about but I'm willing to open myself up to such offerings while Lent is still taking place and my desire for transformation doesn't get overcome by my doubts.

Blessings Along The Way.

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