“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Galatians 5:17 NIV
“It seems we are capable of immense love and loyalty, and as capable of deceit and atrocity. It’s probably this shocking ambivalence that makes us unique.” ~ John Scott
I want that cookie! But it’ll hurt my weight loss.
I want to have a drink. I’ll lose my spouse if I drink again.
That kid of mine is so rebellious! Yet, I love him. I need to make time and gently reason with him.
I want to buy (fill in the blank) but I need to save and pay my bills.
I don’t want to work today. But my family needs my salary and leadership.
My spouse has just been diagnosed with a chronic, possibly terminal, disease. I want out!
I want to be a Christian. I don’t want to be tested and disciplined.
From the little thoughts we have every day to the stunning and powerless situations we endure, we are ambivalent. Flesh at war with the spirit. Spirit at war with the flesh.
So that we do not do whatever we want.
There’s always a cartoon somewhere that has a befuddled, anxious person with an angel on one shoulder whispering in the character’s ear and a red-hot devil whispering in the other. Ambivalence. Holding two conflicting ideas at the same time. We all do it.
I don’t know about you but if I do whatever I want it usually leads to a painful and sometimes embarrassing place. A place that’s dark and hidden. Definitely not for our Father’s glory. Usually, for mine. Some thoughts are easy to do like taking a walk versus blowing up into a disgruntled couch potato. Some are agonizing like a friend of mine who has battled drug addiction. The loving thing to do, finally, was cut off the relationship.
What our Father wants is always for his glory and our good. It’s just that good hurts in the beginning but eventually brings us peace. What’s that trite saying? No pain no gain. Doing what is right and good is just downright difficult sometimes! But the Son did it. For you and for me.
The spiritual journey is not just a journey but a wealth of self-discovery. That self-discovery can reveal some pretty painful revelations. I need to do this but I want to do that. Ambivalence. But we’re not without help or hope. Being mindful of thoughts is a giant step forward with abundant grace.
Jesus, your son, did not want to be humiliated, tortured and die on a painful cross but he did for us. Two conflicting ideas and passionate emotions to the point of sweating blood. But he chose us. As it says in Hebrews, “We have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” Thank you is inadequate.
Help us to recognize our conflicting thoughts and emotions and bring them to you. Help us to do what you want because we know, ultimately, it’s good for us too.