“Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act” (Romans 6:17ish, The Message).
Recently my pastor spoke on the topic of worship. At the time I felt like I was fighting myself, feeling out of sorts about something, but not quite able to place my finger on it. I was angry about anger, and discouraged that I still couldn’t seem to get a grip on my rage.
As he talked about worship, he also talked about idols – those things we worship in place of Jesus. He probed with questions, getting to the heart of what is most important to us. One question I remember in particular is, If you could be anywhere else on Earth, where would you be?
I’ve actually answered this question several times over in my mind. When stressed, when overwhelmed, when feeling the weight of responsibility, I dream of moving to Cape Cod. When I can’t face my life anymore, all I want is to lay on the beach all day and tend bar all night. Alone.
I even have a postcard I’ve kept since my 20’s. It’s an aerial view of Cape Cod – desolate, protruding into the ocean in all its isolation. Below it is a quote, “One could stand and have the whole Earth behind him.”
This has always been my secret dream, to be alone with the whole earth behind me.
My struggle with anger all these years really boils down to the fact I am worshiping my own agenda in place of Jesus. As I thought back on all the times I’d lost it, I realized my rage was most fierce when my agenda was interrupted.
I wasn’t getting mad when my kids disobeyed or were hurtful or mean, I was getting mad when they got in my way.
It seems so simple. And silly. And quite frankly, embarrassing to admit. But truly, I am a selfish ass. When things don’t go my way, I get angry, and whatever or whoever gets in my way, pays the price.
In addition to Philippians 1:9, since this realization I’ve been meditating on this passage:
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition (jealousy, perhaps?); all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:19-20, The Message. Bold and Italics added.)
At times I am overwhelmed with discouragement. At times I feel like I will never change. But then, I read this passage and I am reminded how simple change can be: stop worshipping myself and my own agenda, and start worshipping Jesus.