I’m conflicted. There’s an inner warfare blossoming into all kinds of contradictions and incongruities within me. On my best days I’m aware of it and make an effort to limit civilian casualties. Too many other days I employ a noninterventionist policy and watch the bodies pile up. Regardless of whether or not I can regulate it, I can’t shake the feeling I’m at odds with myself.
Consider a sample proof: I have been known to fake sleep so that I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to feed my own infant. And yet, call me at 3AM seeking some kind of medical advice about your infant and I’ll happily talk you through it. “Thank you for being so available,” you’ll say. Awful, I know.
Follow me for a day and I promise you’ll catch many more cringe-worthy examples. But these outward illustrations of my ill-fitting nature are just the low hanging fruit. The duplicity goes much deeper.
The bottom line is that I am the last and least of a company of people who have been called out of darkness and into a marvelous light, yet I still desperately cling to what once enslaved me. I’m a wretched man parading as a saint, delighting in the summons to be holy while recognizing the impossibility of the job. Not to be too Sisyphean about it, but the prospect of perpetual failure can cause quite a bit of unrest in the soul.
The good (great) news, however, is that through the work of Another I have been rescued from the consequences of my own failing.
Take comfort, you have been deemed a worthy son in spite of yourself.
The selfish fake-sleeper is, puzzlingly, told he already is a saint. That takes a mountain of grace.
The Struggle is Real, and it is Not Ours
Frankly, I was a bit less conflicted before He tracked me down. There were no fundamental discrepancies between who I was and what I did. Like begets like. Sinner begets sin. No inner quarrels there.
Then came the grace of God, upending my equilibrium.
Viewed clearly, the root of my conflicted nature is not that I’m a pseudo-nice guy who does bad things, it’s that the Judge of All regards me as righteous and yet here I sit, expressly unrighteous. But hey, it’s better than the alternative: to be crooked, counted as such, and not be conflicted about it. Grace magnificently intrudes on that sequence.
In a way, this messes with my psyche even more, because on so many days I feel more like an impostor than a son. It seems too fitting that a man with my track record would take the credit for someone else’s righteousness. But the wonder of it is that it’s credit given, not taken. Reconciling with the One I have defied is a function of His pursuing grace, not my sycophantic maneuvering.
God’s invading grace incites a great reversal — the rebel is brought into the King’s family, the sinner blazoned a saint. Beyond this wonderful declaration, however, the actual process of being reversed can be slow, frustrating, and altogether disjointing. Difficult, but beautiful.
Here’s the thing: I’d like to represent the King well. Less romantically, I’d just like to be a better person. I’m working on it (honestly) but I’m pretty good at botching the job. In my self-aware moments, falling short makes me uncomfortable. Grace allows me to feel that discomfort, and I’m glad for it. Glad that I’m operating from a position of acceptance instead of toiling toward it. Glad that my struggle is wrought through His energy powerfully working in me.
So I live with the rich conflict grace has brought into my life; thankful for it. I walk in His strength, knowing that heaven will bring me sweeter rest. Soon, the day is coming when I will no longer be at odds with myself. The conflict will be resolved, for the light will have overcome. Hope in this future rest compels me to press into the fight all the more today, not just for myself but for the sake of my wife, my children, my church, and my neighbors.
How’s that for a contradiction in character — the selfish fake-sleeper is suddenly concerned about others! The Lord makes beautiful paradoxes of us all.
He enjoys his work as a doctor, and regaling the aforementioned youngsters with his terrible singing voice.
He is the author of The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in the Advent, Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional, and the illustrated children’s book, The Littlest Watchman.