i have a grandiose vision of myself at times. this fantastic version of jeff wakes up every morning in a fine mood, and his initial inclinations are something like this: take a run; eat a healthy breakfast; read the Bible, comprehend it, take notes, and let it sink in; pray end remember the number of things for which people have asked prayer; and jovially go off to work. he eats a healthy lunch (and craves healthy food,) he works hard and doesn’t have a bad thought. he never says an ill or discouraging or otherwise cynical word about anyone, ever. he happily goes home and starts doing his reading or writing, undistracted by craving, by the telephone, or the desire to watch TV. he always looks forward to whatever he’s reading or writing. oh, and if someone calls him and decides to go grab a coffee or a drink or get dinner, he’s available and willing to drop everything at the drop of a hat. his gas tank is always full (or, at least, he always has the money to comfortably fill the gas tank when needed) and his schedule is always accommodating to whatever happens. he is learned, kind, wise, social, in shape, flexible, always in the mood for whatever needs to happen.
yeah, well, like i said – that’s a fantastic version of myself. my guess is that you might envision yourself in a similar way, only to be disappointed. here’s a more realistic portrayal of how my average day goes…
jeff wakes up, sore from sleeping in a funny position. he questions whether or not he has the drive, desire, or beans to make a pot of coffee. he might stand on the front porch for a second if it’s a nice morning. he might open the bible if he thinks of it. he fumbles around, trying to decide what to read – do i go the route of flipping open to something random? do i think of something i know i like and go read it? i guess i should have some sort of plan for what i’m reading right now… he reads whatever he decides upon, prays for a second, trying to remember what he told his friend he’s pray for them about the other day. then a number of things could happen. he might start playing FIFA. he might take a walk. he might go to the coffee shop. might read a book. lately he’s not going to work, but he might – MIGHT – fill out a job application. play a little more FIFA. he gets a phone call from an unknown number (or sometimes not unknown) but decides not to take it because for some reason, talking on the phone gets under his skin. since he hasn’t left the house, he contemplates leaving, but is there gas in the car? should i risk the wear and tear on the car? after all, it’s on its last legs, and there’s no way he can buy a new one until he gets a job. eventually the day passes by (perhaps our hero took a nap at some point,) and someone may extend a social invitation on the evening which requires calculus involving: do i feel like going out? do i want to see this person/these people? do i have money to go out? what else could i be doing? and the night ends up passing, too – unspectacularly.
you (or i) may think that this is a cynical view of myself birthed out of not having a job. or, as is currently the case, not loving the place where i live. parts of that are true. but, a lot of the latter description are true, too. the part about not having a bible reading plan – that’s true. the part about hating answering my phone – that’s true. the part about not being sure if i can/should spend money on gas – that’s true.
all of this falls under something i’ve been calling betrayal. betrayal of the things we really want, of the things that we actually care about. that’s not to say that we don’t have agency – we do and i’ll get to that in a second – but it’s to say that, as the Bible says, the desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh, so that you don’t do the things that you want. (see: Galatians 5:17.) we can all agree on that, right? i mean, unless you’re Jesus, i’m pretty sure that you do something you don’t want to do. that makes a ton of sense to me.
the reason i consider it betrayal is that there’s a way i know God designed me to be, which is also the way that i want to be, and there’s the way that i am. and the way that i am is in progress to become the way that God designed me to be and by Jove, that’s a frustrating process sometimes. like i said – and like Paul seemed to say multiple times in the Bible (see also: Romans 7) and it’s so good to know that the apostles dealt with it before – i want to be the former description of myself: sharp, smart, available, wise, advice-giving, life-giving, etc. and this body – this stubborn, out-of-shape body with this slow, unreactive brain serve as a great foil to all of the wonderful dreams i have for myself (and, i’m not unconvinced, God has for me, and you.)
i started reading a book this morning called Garden City, and in the first couple of chapters, he’s been talking about how we were made to rule and subdue. how mankind was given a garden and told – fill the earth, rule it, and subdue it. i’m convinced that extends to our own body. if it were easy to be great, then we’d be great. we’re good at easy. really good at easy. the struggle is, to again quote Paul, to “discipline my body and keep it under control…” which also translates to “pummel my body and make it a slave.”
and that’s kind of it, isn’t it? i think that the word “slave” really makes this idea real, how often i – and i think we – feel like a slave to my/our bodies and minds. how one of us is the master and the other the slave, and every day is a choice as to which one is which. when i’m the master, then i can move past not feeling like something – not feeling like eating well or exercising or making a plan or answering the phone or reading a book or talking to someone or exercising my faith (as it can be to fill the gas tank) – but when i choose the chains, when i choose to be the slave, then those things have power over me.
as scripture says (Paul is my friend, especially today) – in all these things (our weakness, our suffering, our mortality) we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (see: Romans 8:37.)
[note to self:]
your humanity is up to you.