40 Weeks Past the Cross – Two Natures
By: Terrie C
I woke up in a bad mood today. The kind of mood that tempts me, when someone is looking toward me clearly intent on speaking, to raise my hand and say “Today is not the day, and I am not the one!” I don’t do it, of course, but do note the temptation. That grumpy side of me is part of who I am. Just as I have a divine light in me, I have a darker side. If I didn’t, how could my free will truly be free will? To just deny this side of myself, or to renounce it like I did in my days of Christiandom, leaves me not understanding half of myself. How can I advance past or conquer that which I do not understand? In the ten months since I have walked past the cross to have a one-on-one relationship with the One True God, I have had to look at everything through a new lens. Scripture, doctrine, God Himself…. everything looks different!
This bad mood reminded me this morning that I also have to begin to see myself through a new lens. For ten years, I ate a steady doctrine diet called “die to self”. Reading the Holy Scriptures through a new lens, though, I see that I am to live, not die! How well will I live if I go around pretending that half of me doesn’t exist? The truth is, the darker side of me plays an important role in the whole picture of my life. Yours does, too. We just need to learn how to have a healthy perspective about it, and to get a firm grip on it, so that we can conquer it. We need to know how to relate to this side of ourselves, what we can learn from it, and how we can utilize it to bring glory to God.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not glorifying this side of me and I am not nurturing it. It is mine to conquer to be able to live a sinless life. What I am doing this week is taking a long, honest look at my own darker tendencies to see what I can learn!
When I feel grumpy like today, it gives me the opportunity to investigate what is out of balance in my life. Sleep? Nutrition? Study? Something is askew, to be sure!
When I feel tempted, it is an opportunity to learn about my own weaknesses. Where did it originate? What triggers the temptation? How can I best conquer it? Fight or flight?
When I feel angry at someone else, it’s often an indicator to check myself. Chances are, the very thing I am angry at them for is a quality within myself I need to address.
When I do that which I fully know that I shouldn’t do, I can also know my prayer life is on shaky ground, and needs to be addressed. Being securely connected to God’s light fortifies me to think about Him and His Ways before I act. Doing that which I oughtn’t is proof positive that I am thinking more on my own selfish desires than on Him!
It doesn’t make me evil to acknowledge the existence of this side of me, it makes me human. Fumbling occasionally with this part of my being doesn’t pull me farther from God, it propels me toward Him! Some of my most profound experiences with Him have occurred after such a fumble.
Indeed, the darker side of me serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things, if I acknowledge
and understand it. After all, if I had no darker qualities, what would drive me to reach toward light? If I had no inclination to ever do wrong, then how could I choose to do right? If obedience was my only nature, would that obedience be as valuable as it is when achieving it takes effort and discipline on my part?
On days when my darker side feels powerful and prominent, I know it’s an indicator that I need to pull out my spiritual mirror and take an honest assessment. I pull out that mirror prayerfully, asking God to show me what lies beneath any of my darker inclinations, and He is so faithful to answer. More often than not, I am surprised by the answer! More often than not, His answer is key to me conquering a problem area for me.
Some of my darker tendencies were easy for me to conquer when I started walking with God. Some, though, aren’t so clear-cut. They slip out in smaller ways, and can even be easy to miss because they wear a disguise. A good way to take account of what I still struggle with is to check on the things I confess in prayer. If I find myself confessing the same thing month after month, then I know it’s time to address the sin in a different way. God doesn’t want a verbatim confession from us daily, He wants us to repent! How can we repent from that which we aren’t even aware?
Both my divine spark and my dark inclinations were bestowed upon me by my Creator. What I do with either is the very heart of my own free will. Christianity taught me that only Jesus was perfect and righteous. Funny though, there are plenty of men in the Tanakh that were righteous, but not perfect!
I’m done walking around with my head hung low, proclaiming my own unworthiness! That is not a prideful statement, I assure you. I am well aware of my many, many shortcomings. If I were unworthy of the love, mercy and grace God gives His own, would He have ever called me out of my atheism to walk with Him? Would He be patient when I stumble, would He shower me with His shalom like He does so often? I’m learning here on this side of the cross that humility isn’t thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less often than I think of my God and my fellow man. When I choose to walk in His ways I am worthy of all His Word says I am. Even when, and perhaps especially when, I fall and rise again!
For a righteous man falleth seven times, and riseth up again…
from the 24th Proverb