Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Good and Bad

This past week, I spent some time with my kids at the beach. Most of the week, I was happy. However, one day, as I sat in the pool watching the kids play, I felt the happiness slipping away. I realized that happiness was dancing around me just out of my grasp. I wondered why I could not simply be happy and content. Upon reflection, I realized that I was struggling with resentment and jealousy.

When I returned from my trip, I met a friend and spiritual mentor for lunch. Shortly into the lunch, I told my friend that I had a confession. I informed my friend that I hoped my confession would not make them think that I was an awful person. I then told them about some of the jealousy and resentment that I had felt.

To my surprise, my friend, who is much wiser than me, did not judge me. Instead, my friend told me that they have the same struggles. Because I tend to see the world as black or white, I had convinced myself that I was either “good” or “bad”. My view of goodness and badness did not leave room for the simple truth that can be found time and again in literature – light and dark, or good and evil, are in each of us (think of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, etc.). Additionally, Romans 7:14-20 states:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

I find it ironic that my sin had almost isolated me. Because I was so ashamed of my “bad” feelings, my instinct was to hide these feelings away from others and pretend that the feelings did not exist. However, upon confessing my shortcomings to another, I received assurance that I was not entirely bad, and I was able to witness grace.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis stated, “When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less …. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.”

Perhaps this is why confession is so important for Christians. First, in order to confess, we must analyze ourselves to recognize both the good and bad that are within us. Second, when we acknowledge the “bad” parts of ourselves, and confess them to other believers, we are no longer “isolated” in our sin. Instead, we realize that we are experiencing part of the human struggle with sin. Finally, we can experience grace – when a Christian friend learns of our shortcomings, yet still loves us, we can understand how God also loves us despite our sin.

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