(Before reading this blog, you should know that my family and I speak of the Biblical term flesh as the monster, and believe it is not us, but something in us. We’ve been born again and made new creations, sons of God. Sometimes the flesh has us and influences us, but it is not us.)
My daughter worries, and she’s figured it out. It’s like she’s got radar—not Gary Burghoff, Radar—but a radar system that regularly alerts her for something being wrong with someone around her or with herself. And it goes off a lot.
Recently she said, “Daddy, I’m a worry-wart,” and here’s what I thought: “You know, she is. She’s always got something negative to be concerned about, always some wrong or some bad that gets her attention. What a worry-wart. I should tell her to trust God…” As I prepared to blurt out a confirmation (you are a worry-wart) followed by a healthy prescription (trust God), I nevertheless took the briefest of pauses, hesitating ever so slightly to see if the Spirit might interject something. Low and behold, He did.
She’s no worry-wart. She is often plagued by it, but it’s not her; it’s something against her.
Shocked into the reality I cannot see, I said, “Emma, my girl, do you think that worry comes from you, or does it come at you?” Because I wanted her to think and, in so doing, sow to the Spirit, I said no more. She answered, “It comes from the monster. It comes from my flesh—but I’m not flesh. Then, Daddy, why do I worry so much?”
“Well,” I replied, “it isn’t your fault. Our monsters are really monstrous, aren’t they? Everybody’s is. But what you and I get to see is God in us, smacking the monster for us. Remember how to think or talk toward Him when you feel all that fight going on inside? It’s fun to find Him in there, isn’t it?” Pulling her onto my lap, I said, “Come on. Let’s find Him inside together.” She wiggled her little body into a comfortable spot, and I prayed, “Jesus, Emma and I believe you’re in us right now. We feel the fight you’re having with the monster. Would you put it in its place and would you do what you love to do in us, and make peace and trust and love more obvious than fear? Emma and I don’t like the battle inside, but we know what to do about it. Thanks for living in us…” And Emma said softly, “Amen.”
Think that was a good moment?
I don’t want Emma to get overwhelmed by confusing her flesh with herself, which means I have to make that distinction, too. That confusion is so destructive, the effects stretching out like roots to touch everything they can. Not only might she come to believe she is what God believes she is not, but she might come to act upon it and live out her days trying to conquer herself…or give in and give up. And that can stretch through families and friends—even to generations.
I know there are many who think of themselves as the flesh and that they are the monster that produces all the crappy thoughts and desires within. They don’t think of themselves as having become sons of God, now spirit, and not flesh any longer. So when the flesh and the Spirit are at war within them (Gal 5), they think the battle is theirs to resolve. And, misidentifying themselves as flesh, that usually means they get verbally beat up, if only in their minds—You idiot! What a loser! What kind of Christian are you, anyway?! Rather than sow to the Spirit, who would produce what Jesus is like in them (the fruit of the Spirit), they fight the flesh—and that’s no way to live.
Emma has radar of a sort that not everyone else has. Hers looks one way (awareness of need, injustice, ill health, etc.), and yours and mine look another. Perhaps you can’t stand it if people aren’t comfortable and cared for (hospitality), if their needs aren’t met (mercy), etc. In any case, sowing to the Spirit in light of your particular radar (and when it goes off) is how to live. You and I aren’t supposed to do something about everything we see and feel—God in us would love to do something instead. When our own radar goes off, alerting us, we don’t do something by the flesh, we sow to the Spirit to see what He would like to do. He might produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control. His life might mean you do something, and it might mean you do nothing. In either case, you’ll be living by the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the monster. And Christ in you will be the delight of your life.
If Emma didn’t learn to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, she’d look and feel like a worry-wart all her days, even while an indwelt daughter of God. We’re working to help her live as she is, not as she feels, by faith, and not by feel.
That means God gets to use her radar as something life-giving, and it means that she won’t get abused by her radar. What a difference.