The Oops of Our Lives
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I sin. In spite of my great efforts to live a life of pure perfection, I mess up, and I do it a lot. I’m not as bad as I used to be, but I’m still no angel.
With how often I sin, you’d think I’d be used to it by now. However, I still trip up and get angry at myself for falling for the same trick for the hundredth time.
It’s a standard script:
Girl is tempted.
Girl thinks she can get away with it and does it against her better judgment.
Girl is immediately remorseful (unless it’s a particularly fun sin, when which girl feels bad only after period of ignorant bliss).
Girl beats herself up upon believing that God can’t possibly love her, and then isolates herself from God as though He needs time to cool down.
Girl is miserable without Her Savior and comes crying to the altar at the next church service.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Catholic guilt has nothing on a Christian girl raised in private school. I eat guilt trips for breakfast.
It’s not always the same vice all the time. Habitual sin is one thing, but I’ll invent new ways to get in trouble. I can be quite creative.
I ask the same question of myself every time: why can’t I just do right? The same answer comes back to me: because you just weren’t designed that way.
Thanks to Adam, Eve, a sneaky snake and an enticing piece of fruit, we are all predisposed to be on the naughty list. If you don’t think so, look at children. I know people marvel at how innocent kids are; I beg to differ. A kid will lie through his teeth before he admits that he was the one who trampled through Mrs. Brown’s garden. If you tell a small child to stay out of the cookie jar, guess where she’s going when you leave the kitchen? No one teaches you how to be bad. It comes naturally.
What makes me laugh are the people who think they’re perfect and somehow bullet-proof when it comes to sin. It’s such an illusion. Half of the reason why most of us avoid certain kinds of sin is purely due to our environment (i.e., you never cheated on your spouse because the opportunity never presented itself). We all fall and fail. I don’t care how self-disciplined you are. If the right amount of pressure is applied, you will crack like the nut that you are.
So it’s established that sin is inevitable. I believe it’s mainly because sin is necessary. We have to sin. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and it’s all for a good reason.
The Message Bible’s interpretation of II Corinthians 12:7-10 rightly explains Paul's view of sin.
“So I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
”’My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’
”Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
That’s the whole story. We sin because we’re weak. It’s a handicap given to us straight from God in order to keep us glued to His side.
Think about it. Sin keeps us humble and helps us realize that we don’t have it all together. I like how the screenwriters of the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind described human beings as "this mess of sadness and phobias.” We’re carrying around tremendous burdens and are ever suffering from pain as a result of either our sin or someone else’s. We are all tragically flawed, and nothing reminds us more of that than when we are flat on our faces before God in need of some grace.
That leads me to the most important lesson that sin teach us. Without sin, there is no forgiveness, and the power to forgive is what makes the Gospel the “Good News”. We get to feel the joy of having our slate wiped clean every morning by God’s new mercies. It helps us receive God’s forgiveness, forgive each other, and forgive ourselves.
God is brilliant, isn’t He? He takes even the things we’re ashamed of and turns them into pathways to His heart. It makes our sin a tool for His glory. Where can you get a better deal than that?
Recently I found myself back at a painful place of repenting to God for things I foolishly promised I’d never do again. Long afterwards I still found myself thinking about my moronic behavior. God asked me gently, “How long are you going to beat yourself up over this? You slipped. It happens. The important thing is to get back out there.”
So here I am – back out there. And I’ll probably mess up again before the day is over. Just knowing my frailty makes me extremely grateful for grace… and even more grateful to the God Who supplies it.
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