redeeming temptations

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The whole topic of temptations and sin and sins is fraught with danger. It’s a lot like rooting around an electrical system, one in which the power can’t be turned off. So, a person is likely as not to get a major shock. There certainly are things that can be done, safety gloves, helmets with big plastic visors, jumpsuits made of sythentic space fabrics with complicated danger logos pasted all over it.

Still, the danger comes, mostly because with sin, it come from inside out as much as outside in.

Analysis of sin, then, almost defies any attempt to really go deeper.

Then there are the spiritual realms, if that’s something you admit. Even if you don’t they are still there, just have to talk about them in a different sort of way. Attack the root of the problems and the source of the problems gets crabby.

Just like with war really.

The expectation then is there will be danger in such a topic as sanctification. So what to do? Temptations will never go away, and chances are there will be more than a few stumbles and bruises and damaged egos in any attempt. John Wesley noted that after his strangely warming Aldersgate Experience in which he was finally assured his sins were forgiven and which launched a ministry that shakes the world still he was afflicted with more temptations and felt beaten more times than any other time in his life.

There can be, I think, three reactions to sin once on the road to divine restoration. The first is to cave, give in, sin boldly. This, of course, won’t help because it’s like walking down the mountain in an attempt to get to the peak. But, it is quite a relief to just let loose and feel the neuro-chemical reward of doing so. The second is to fight the temptation in the moment, not sinning but not going any farther than the legality. This involves avoiding sin because sin is bad and bad sin shouldn’t be done. Each temptation is avoided in each moment. Each symptom is addressed as it happens. The root causes aren’t explored because there’s no reason to open that door.

This may result in being the worst choice because in not addressing the core causes, the force of the temptations come out even if not in obviously sinful ways. By letting the fires burn beneath the surface, by never dissipating the passions, these then push their way out, often in destructive and confusing ways. This is the foundation of so much religious angst, in which people think that because they are following the list of rules they are fine. Indeed, this can cause the worst sorts of sins because in thinking they are fine they begin to justify their outrageous evils, calling it god when God has nothing to do with it. They confuse hell fire with Spirit fire, and lose entire generations in the process.

The third way is to acknowledge the temptation and seek to root it out. This rooting out has even less to do with the second way than the first, oddly enough. We can stumble and discover the roots, even as we plead, again, for grace and forgiveness. Ignoring the root causes, however, leaves us little more than legalistic drones, unthinking, unanalyzing, inflexible to life and its many calls upon us. But, ideally, there is a mix of the two, involving the fighting against the temptation but in the fighting analyzing the approach, the tactics, the style, all the things that come against us or from within us that manifest in all too often illogical or silly ways.

This is the best because it involves opening oneself up to analysis, involving the Spirit in conversation and seeking in the midst of being flayed to see what makes a body tick. When we are opened up under temptation or distress we can see ourselves for who we are and at that moment we can take higher and quicker steps towards God.

In this we can also turn the temptations around, making use of them rather than them making comical use of us. We can take our own brutal feelings and discover their source, and in that discovery become the sorts of people who overcome the root causes, and can speak to others in the deeper ways of reality.

I note this now as precisely an example of this. All weekend I’ve been feeling really angry. That anger is directed inwards, in tempting me towards depression, and outwards in what could easily be bursts of frustration at inconsequential causes. This is a sort of anger that doesn’t have a primary cause, and a type of anger I rarely feel. The times that come to mind go back to my last couple years in college.

I note this now, and have noted other things, because I want to take stock of my self. I want to see what is spoken in this moment. Rather than give in, I analyze, putting myself in the lab, as both subject and scientist. In this I may not feel victorious, but I will make it serve a useful end.

I feel the anger deep within and look around my life, wondering what has built up, and what I can do. I assess both practical causes in various events or non-events and I also assess the spirituality of the moment. I am sensitive to spiritual things, sometimes a whole lot more than I would like to endure.

I was bad at this earlier today but I remind myself now that I need to fight to recover prayer, even if a few words. I need to see those claws that grab hold of my being and let go that which they grip. I see myself quite starkly in the fire misted fury and realize how much more work there is ahead of me in pursuits of God’s depths. The consolation being that the Spirit is not apart from this but alongside, urging me forward, picking me up when I collapse, whispering words of help, helping me to redeem the temptations. All because it is not in the absence of temptation that maturity is gained but in the overcoming of them. Those without temptations are those deemed without worth in the greater struggle.

So, I feel, and I fight, and I ponder, and I seek to hear amidst the ravaging clamor the words of peace. And I wait. I watch. I try to turn to look upwards, taking this moment of stark clarity to look down and identify where the anchors are attached. I do this so that even if I cannot address them with strength now, I can when I am whole again. I do this so that next time there will be less of a storm, and then less, until the tempest becomes a breeze, and the peace of the Spirit fills my deepest being.

One Response to “redeeming temptations”

  1. marie Says:

    Involving the Spirit in conversation is the stellar most wise thing to do!
    We are called to participation and union and conversation with our Creator and God.
    And, I love this verse:
    Light arises in times of darkness for the upright. Psalm 112:4
    By the way, I happen to believe the L-rd is working wonderful things in your behalf.