15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:15-25, ESV)
Addictive sin was more than just a casual theological interest for the Apostle Paul – it was a profound, painful, personal struggle. Paul doesn’t name his specific sin here – just what “very thing I hate” he keeps on doing. This ambiguity does not weaken the application of this passage, but strengthens it – as we can fill in the blanks with our own addictive behavior. What do I keep doing that is the very thing I most want to stop? What am I avoiding that I most need to do?
I’ve spent the better part of the last 10 days wallowing in a pit of sloth, numbing my senses with episodes of crime thrillers and senseless sitcoms, eating excessive amounts of sugar products and washing them down with diet sodas, staying up all hours of the night for no good reason and sleeping away nearly every morning (typically my best time to pray and write).
I’m grateful to God I haven’t turned to favored addictive substances (aside from sugar and sugar substitutes) as I’ve wallowed in the pit. But, by isolating myself from healthy and holy relationships, I have failed to “redeem the time” – instead allowing the sin of sloth to rule in my flesh and overtake my mind.
The good news is I find myself peering out from the edge of the pit, looking forward to what I hope will be a productive week. More than this, I celebrate the good news that I haven’t had to climb out the pit alone. In fact, even while I was in the depths these past ten days, the arms of Christ kept reaching out to me…
… in an encouraging e-mail my editor sent when she noticed my lapse in on-line presence.
….in a conversation with a local bookstore owner about my work in progress and a complimentary copy of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
… in the exuberant fellowship of my college roommate Joe and his son Dan, particularly as Dan played a few of his songs along the banks of the Ohio.
… over lunch with a local pastor, sharing our stories and discussing quality story-telling music we enjoy.
… in the news that a friend battling addiction is taking some key steps in treatment.
We fight a spiritual battle each day as we attempt to glorify God with our minds while our flesh turns to sin. Sometimes it feels like we’re fighting a losing battle, but we can’t let our feelings overwhelm our faith. Our own feeble flesh can not withstand enemy attacks, but the faith of Christ within, among, and around us keeps us moving forward. Thank God.