21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23but 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. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! –Romans 7
I am paying bills. Actually, I am not paying bills, I am writing a blog post. And actually, I wasn’t just paying bills. I was removing them from envelopes, reviewing them, complaining to my husband about them, recycling the extraneous paper and calling our banker. No bills paid yet.
I hate paying bills. The past few years have included difficult financial circumstances for us. Paying the bills often means a dance of debt, deciding who to pay what amount, who we can put off, getting creative about repayment. This is draining for me; a place that seems to squeeze any godliness out of my being. After getting through a bill pay session, I am anxious and cranky at the very least, angry and crazed at the very worst.
My own attempt to remedy this situation is this: to bribe myself to pay the bills. When I open the bills, I get to knit for an hour (yes, it takes that much knitting to motivate me to open the bills). After strategizing with John how to deal with the loudest items, I get to write my blog post (more of a break than a bribe). Next, I will actually pay the bills, and probably give myself another knit session. Then the bill paying will be done for this month. I will wipe the sweat from my brow, take a deep breath and try to be a Christian again.
The biggest problem with my bribery solution is that God still isn’t in it. It’s a way of coping with the financial stuff, not a way of transcending it. Ultimately, transcending the stress what I want–but I’m not there yet. Practicing spiritual disciplines like the Jesus Prayer in stressful situations often turns those good practices into coping mechanisms as well.
I thought Paul might have something useful to say on the subject; Romans 7:25 seems to be the antidote for Paul: thankfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ. There are no “how to’s” from Paul. Simply put, it is Christ’s presence that puts the sin of selfish, tunnel-vision living not only in perspective, but obliterates it. It is truly an anti-dote. The only clue we have on how this to put Christ into the situation is Paul’s thankfulness–a completely counter-intuitive suggestion. Do you think you can be blatantly thankful in midst of the most stressful, freaked out areas of your life? I certainly can’t. I guess this is another area of dying to self to be alive to Christ….in other words, to live in the fullness of Christ’s grace.
Lord, give me an outpouring of grace as I tackle the miserable things I hate to do. Thank you for your transcendent presence even when I am oblivious to it. Help me to move from bribing myself to do the things that must be done to reveling in your presence which gives true perspective on all the problems of this life on earth. Amen.