Slim pickings

Starting in June, we went through 2 watermelons each week. Watermelon with lunch, watermelon with dinner. Watermelon just because I was walking past the fridge. I became a master of watermelon dismantling, artfully turning that giant beast into bite-sized pieces we could pop into our mouths. I even developed a system for storing watermelon so that each container had sweet center pieces in the bottom and less sweet edge pieces at the top. Otherwise we’d get through all the good pieces and have rind pieces left in the bottom.

Except no matter how I stacked those containers, we always ended up with rind pieces in the bottom. Even though they were stacked on top. Even though each of us had to dig past them to the good stuff.

It takes a lot of effort to choose a less red piece. It takes a lot of effort to think of others first, to take the less perfect so that someone else can have the perfect. Even though these are the people I love most in the world.

I think this is part of our human nature, the one we fight against no matter how tightly twined with God we become. That nature, it is part of our human form. When I confront this unpleasant truth, I find myself returning to Paul’s words: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing..For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7: 19, 22-23).

As good as my intentions are, I will never be able to use those good intentions–the rules I’m setting up–to make up for my inner inclinations. Nope. All the clever tricks in the world won’t make a difference, either. But thank goodness that when confronted with the rinds of my behavior, I can also take comfort in the fact that conquering that sinful nature isn’t my job. In fact, it’s already been done for me: “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

No, that doesn’t mean that I eat all the rinds first. But it does mean that I don’t have to hate myself for not doing so. Sometimes I’m so caught up in how good I want to be–in how good I’m supposed to be, loving Jesus as much as I do–that I forget that my will still at war. And then I get caught up in the war, fighting a battle with my own mind when Jesus Christ died just so that I didn’t have to. The fight, the failure, the guilt–it’s not only painful, but it’s pointless.

Living by God’s law is a great thing. Loving God, doing what He’d have me–all great. Eating some of the rinds first so that we can all have the sweet stuff at the end, that’s good too. But in the end, the other law will always be there. That’s okay as well. Because while that law may win out on the watermelon front, when this life is done, it will lose. And what a very great comfort that is.

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